Zina Saro-Wiwa is a video artist. She lives in Brooklyn, New York but also works in Niger Delta in Nigeria where she where she founded the contemporary art gallery Boys’ Quarters Project Space in the city of Port Harcourt. Alongside her multi-channel videos, Saro-Wiwa makes photographs, documentaries and short films. She also creates food-related projects and curates exhibitions regularly. Saro-Wiwa is one of Foreign Policy Magazine’s Global Thinkers of 2016 recognized for her work in the Niger Delta. She was Artist-in-Residence at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn 2016-2017 and in April 2017 was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for Fine Arts.
Saro-Wiwa’s interest lies in mapping emotional landscapes. She often explores highly personal experiences, carefully recording their choreography, making tangible the space between internal experience and outward performance as well as bringing cross-cultural and environmental/geographic considerations to bear on these articulations. The slippery dynamics between “truth”, “reality” and “performance” lie at the heart of her video performance work. The very idea of landscape and environment is constantly being interrogated both in her work and in the exhibitions she puts on at Boys’ Quarters in Nigeria as well as in her work with food.
Saro-Wiwa’s first foray into the art world was in 2008 when her documentary This Is My Africa was shown at Stevenson Gallery in Cape Town. The film went on to be shown on HBO from 2010 to 2012 as well as film festivals and museums and galleries. In 2010 her career as an artist began in earnest in New York, when she was invited to curate her first ever contemporary art exhibition at SoHo’s, now disbanded, Location One Gallery. The group show – titled Sharon Stone in Abuja – was one that explored the narrative and visual conventions of the Nollywood film industry. In addition to curating the show, Saro-Wiwa created and contributed her first-ever installation pieces and experimental alt-Nollywood films.
Since her New York debut she has been commissioned by the Menil Collection and Seattle Art Museum, has had work shown at the Pulitzer Foundation, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Stevenson Gallery, Goodman Gallery, Nikolaj Kunsthal, Tate Britain, Fowler Museum in LA, the Brooklyn Museum and many other institutions.
Her first ever solo museum show Did You Know We Taught Them How To Dance? went up at Blaffer Art Museum in Houston in 2015 and opens at Krannert Art Museum in Illinois in November 2016. Her recently published monograph for the show also titled Did You Know We Taught Them How To Dance? – published by Washington Press – is available at the Brooklyn Museum book store and Amazon.com.
Saro-Wiwa’s work can be found in museums and private collections around the world including Krannert Museum and The Walther Collection.