Zina Saro-Wiwa: Did You Know We Taught Them How to Dance?

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Zina Saro-Wiwa. Kuru's Children, 2015. (video still)
Video still from Kuru's Children by Zina Saro-Wiwa (2015).

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Zina Saro-Wiwa. Prayer Warrior, 2015. (video still)
Video still from Prayer Warrior by Zina Saro-Wiwa (2015)

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Zina Saro-Wiwa. Karikpo Pipeline, 2015. Five-channel video, color.
Zina Saro-Wiwa. Karikpo Pipeline, 2015. Five-channel video, color. 24 min. Courtesy of the artist.

Exhibition

On view
Nov 17, 2016 to Mar 25, 2017
Main Level, East Gallery

This exhibition is the first solo museum presentation of works by British-Nigerian video artist and filmmaker Zina Saro-Wiwa, featuring video installations, photographs, and a sound installation produced in the Niger Delta region of southeastern Nigeria from 2013 to 2015. Drawing upon folklore, masquerade traditions, religious practices, food and Nigerian popular aesthetics, Saro-Wiwa’s work shuttles between documentary and performance, testing art’s capacity to transform and to envision new concepts of environment and environmentalism. 

Engaging Niger Delta residents both as subjects and collaborators, Saro-Wiwa cultivates strategies of psychic survival and performance, underscoring the complex and expressive ways in which people live in an area historically fraught with the politics of energy, labor and land.

Known for decades for corruption and environmental degradation, the Niger Delta is also a verdant place, an abundant food producer as well as provider of crude oil and natural gas to the entire globe. The United States has until recent years been the largest importer of Nigeria’s oil, while Europe and India are now the top destinations.

Returning to this contested region—the place of her birth—Saro-Wiwa insinuates herself as a transformative force ingesting and disgorging the stuff of tradition and of psycho-social dynamics to produce new origin narratives. Her new work makes visible the cultural, spiritual and emotional powers propelling the Niger Delta and its connections as a global energy capital.

Curated by Amy L. Powell, Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art
Co-presented by Krannert Art Museum and Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston

An accompanying catalogue features recipe-stories by Saro-Wiwa alongside essays by curator Amy L. Powell, environmental cultural studies scholar Stephanie LeMenager, and writer Taiye Selasi, with a conversation between the artist and art historian Chika Okeke-Agulu. Niger Delta historian Ebiegberi Joe Alagoa contributes a guest foreword.

The exhibition and catalogue are made possible by the generous support of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. For this presentation, sponsorship was provided in part by the Krannert Art Museum Council. The exhibition is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

 

Ricker Library of Architecture and Art has developed a library guide with details about this exhibition, as well as supplementary materials and curator-recommended readings: Library Guide to Zina Saro-Wiwa: Did You Know We Taught Them How to Dance?

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Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Christ after the Flagellation, ca. 1670. Oil on canvas. Gift of Ellnora D. Krannert 1960-4-1
  1. May 13, 2017 to Jun 2, 2018
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