Zina Saro-Wiwa, born in Nigeria, is an artist working primarily with video but also photography, sculpture and mixed media installations. Her work is deeply attuned to the notion of emotional landscape, exploring 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 artist examines catharsis, grieving, praying and mourning rituals as well as highly personal explorations of cultural notions of love.
When Saro-Wiwa returned to her Nativa Ogoniland, after a few years abroad, she undertook a highy personal work, spending two years immersing herself in the ‘emotional, social and spiritual ecosystems’ of the Niger Delta region, drawing attention to the human experience of environment within a landscape undergoing trauma, and always driven by the intention to inject indigenous cosmologies. With a reccurent focus on food and the act of eating, Zina Saro-Wiwa delivers reflections about the relationship of people and their land/culture, seen as a ‘ritual act of ingesting and incorporating a West African worldview on a cellular level’. Many of her videos place the viewer in front of the performer, face to face, in an intimate situation. This entrance into someone’s space could be brutal in our society where individuality is so strong and relationships to others imprinted with a polite distance. However, the viewer quickly understand that this personal moment transform into a universal perspective
In “Pineapple Suicide” (2016) the artist explores the semiotics of this iconic fruit.
we find a video that charges any space it occupies. Simple and direct, the pineapple is obliterated by a machete. You never see the arm of the perpetrator rather the focus is the pineapple’s disintegrating form and the concrete beneath it. Saro-Wiwa insists that it is not about destruction but something ultimately far more generous and generative. “I am not sure where this piece came from” she states, “but after I had made the film and performed this action, the pineapple occupied a more prominent place in my mind and psyche. This is about life after death.”
Zina Saro-Wiwa was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for Art in 2017, and in December 2016, Zina Saro-Wiwa was recognised as one of 2016's Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy Magazine. Her recent exhibitions include: Southampton Art Centre, UK (2018), Museum of World Cultures (2018), Walther Collection Project Space, NY (2016); solo exhibitions at Krannert Museum (2016-2017), IL and Blaffer Museum, TX (2015-2016); Bozar, Brussels (2016); Arles Photo-Festival (2016); Brooklyn Museum, NY (2016); UCLA Fowler Museum (2016); Guggenheim, Bilbao (2015); Saro-Wiwa is the founder and curator for the Port Harcourt contemporary art gallery Boys' Quarters Project Space. Her work can be found in museums and private collections around the world.