Zina Saro-Wiwa


Across moving image, photography, performance and installation, Los Angeles-based artist Zina Saro-Wiwa (b.1976) work draws on ritual, folklore and masquerade to explore notions of environment and environmentalism. Mapping mystical intimacies between human beings and the land belongs to an ongoing interest in emotional and psychic landscapes. In the past, she has explored the visible and unseen cultures of the Niger Delta offering a radically distinct and generative re-engagement of this biodiverse region in Nigeria that faces continuing deforestation and degradation.


After a few years working in the US as an artist, Saro-Wiwa returned to her native Ogoniland in 2013, spending two years immersing herself in the ‘emotional, social and spiritual ecosystems’ of the Niger Delta region. Her time there produced a body of work that focuses on the human experience of environment within a landscape undergoing trauma. She seeks to re-define and re-imagine what environmentalism can mean, positioning her work within the internal and emotional landscape, and expanding understandings of the issues of the Niger Delta and other environmentally compromised regions. 


Zina Saro-Wiwa was born in Nigeria, grew up in the UK, and now lives in Los Angeles, USA, but still curates for the gallery she established in the Niger Delta city of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Formerly a journalist presenting programmes on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Two’s The Culture Show, Saro-Wiwa now produces video installations, photographs and experimental films. Zina Saro-Wiwa was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for Art in 2017, was Artist-in-Residence at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn (2016-2017) and in December 2016, Zina Saro-Wiwa was recognised as one of 2016’s Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy Magazine. Saro-Wiwa is the founder and curator for the Port Harcourt contemporary art gallery Boys’ Quarters Project Space, which showcases local Niger Delta artists as well as national and international artists. 


Forthcoming and recent exhibitions include: Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Switzerland (2020); Edith-Russ-Haus for Media Art, Oldenberg, Germany (2020); The Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, USA (2019); Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, USA (2019); 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); The Fowler Museum, Los Angeles (2016); Guggenheim, Bilbao (2015); Nikolaj Kunstal, Copenhagen (2015); The Menil Collection, TX (2013); and the Pulitzer Foundation, MO (2013). Recent screenings include: MAXXI, Rome (2019), Serpentine Gallery, London (2016); an evening dedicated to her work at Tate Britain, London (2016); and Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2014).


In May 2020 she  delivered UCLA’s James S Coleman Memorial Lecture. In the same month, MoMA, New York mounted a screening of work by Saro-Wiwa followed by a discussion.