Tania Camara‘s Oreo is named after the racial term and challenges the idea of whitening oneself to achieve success. It explores what it means to be authentic to yourself, expressed through the medium of performance art.
For the duration of the piece, Camara doesn’t utter a single word, yet skilfully manages to convey a profound message of reclaiming her identity. She begins the performance wearing a professional suit, and she slowly applies white make-up.
The mundane routine of getting ready for work is disturbed by audio clips of Dianne Abbot reading out the racist abuse she faces online. Facing more vitriol than any other MP, it is shocking to hear the extreme level of racism she receives daily.
These startling soundbites are interjected into the performance as Camara powerfully paints her skin white, signifying how women of colour have to Westernise themselves in order to conform to society’s image of success.
Shedding her formal attire, Camara wears only her underwear, a poignant act that exposes her profound vulnerability. Painting her entire body in white ‘paint’, her measured, meticulous application becomes almost ritualistic. The prolonged silence of the piece is palpable, and the audience sit entirely transfixed on Tania Camara.
In places, the performance feels a little too slow and drawn out. However, there is no denying the emotional impact of the powerful message conveyed when Camara washes away the paint and dresses herself in a bright, flowing skirt and blouse.
Her liberation signals a change in the performance’s mood, as she dances and sings to African music. Encouraging the audience to join her in dancing, the jovial atmosphere of freedom is set in stark contrast to the restricted performance in earlier segments.
Camara’s performance in Oreo is accompanied by visual images, mainly of someone eating an Oreo biscuit, relayed on a screen behind her. This tends to be an unnecessary addition to the piece because Camara is such a compelling performer, your attention is fixated on her throughout. The video footage sadly detracts from this, and is a distraction.
In one sequence, technical issues caused the subtitles to be cut off at the bottom of the screen, therefore missing the translated lyrics to the song. Again, these feel unnecessary because the music is exhilarating enough without the need for translation.
Tania Camara’s performance is mesmeric and captivating, and honestly doesn’t require visual aids. Without speaking a single word, she delivers a powerful message and presents a profound, thought-provoking piece of physical theatre.