Zina Saro-Wiwa is a British-Nigerian artist who lives and works between Los Angeles and Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Her multi-disciplinary, research-based practice deals primarily with environmentalism, invisible ecologies, re-imagining indigeneity and exploring the nature of power. She works with video, photography, sound, distillation, food, performance and institution-building to tell stories and share research and meditation findings on her main region of interest, the oil-cursed Niger Delta region of Nigeria. She is committed to using a variety of media and disciplines to transform the storytelling and thus the fate of her birthplace at the same time mapping a blue print for regeneration through culture. But also to construct a more thorough and integrated concept of environmentalism and ecological truth. In 2023/2024 she has exhibitions up at Tate Modern, The Pitt Rivers Museum and the Barbican Center that feature work made in the Niger Delta over the past decade.
Zina worked freelance as a BBC producer, presenter and reporter for over twelve years. She transitioned into art in 2010. Initially she used art to unpack her responses to her complex family heritage and as her practise deepened, her art became a tool to transform and free her understanding of the environment around us and our place within it. For Saro-Wiwa environmentalism does not only implicate worries about greenhouse emissions and oil pollution, but also emotional landscapes and spiritual ecosystems.
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. She has given lectures and shown works regularly at biennales, museums and art fairs around the world including Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Yale, Art Basel, Basel Miami, Frieze London, Seattle Art Museum, The Menil, Brooklyn Museum, Guggenheim Bilbao, São Paulo Biennale (‘21), Kochi Biennale (‘22) and Times Square in Manhattan. Her work can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Smithsonian Museum of African Art, The Pitt Rivers Museum Oxford and Museum of Fine Arts Houston to name but a few institutions. In 2020 she was the James S. Coleman Memorial Lecturer at UCLA and delivered a highly-acclaimed lecture about the restitution of African masks and figurines. Her lecture was delivered as a (now-collectible and collected) film titled “Worrying The Mask: The Politics of Authenticity and Contemporaneity in the Worlds of African Art“. She currently has an exhibition on display at the Pitt Rivers Museum that she co-curated with Dr David Pratten at the Pitt Rivers Museum titled “UNMASKED: Spirit in the city“.
Zina runs her own not-for-profit the Mangrove Arts Foundation which uses research, contemporary art, food and agricultural projects including her Illicit Gin Institute project to transform the fate of the oil-cursed Niger Delta.