“For the artist, the Divine Comedy represents a ‘theological’ allegory, where the literal level becomes a ‘beautiful lie’ conceived in order to convey a hidden truth. The historical characters that appear in Dante’s Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso are realistically determined and they provide a figural interpretation of history. From this starting point, the artist feels justified in introducing the viewer to her own reading of the Divine Comedy, in which she investigates histories mirroring Dante’s Inferno from the perspective of contemporary Africa. The work is composed of two opposite video screens, splitting the audience’s point of view between them, as the perception of two narratives occurs simultaneously. The central focus is a looped conversation between Beatrice and Virgil, where the feminine and masculine voices are superimposed by Dante’s presence, a poetical presence that weaves the two narratives together. While Beatrice’s character is dressed in Maputo clothes, surrounded by curious artifacts that together combine to make a coloured plot based on the dynamics of presence/absence and life/death, Virgil becomes a guide to one of the cities of Zimbabwe. No longer a storyteller of the epic on Trojan Wars, the Virgil constructed by the artist narrates the wars of colonial and postcolonial Africa, where the archival footage of Zimbabwe’s liberation war becomes the base for the narrative.”
From The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists by Simon Njami.
For more on the Zimbabwean artist Berry Bickle, see Wikipedia.