The Chroniclers

Zina Saro-Wiwa

Artist/New York City

For shouldering a cultural legacy.

Zina Saro-Wiwa

Nigerian activist Ken Saro-Wiwa was killed by the state in 1995 after protesting oil extraction in Ogoniland, his home region. Now his daughter, Zina, uses art to demonstrate how environmental destruction has informed Ogoni “emotional, social, and spiritual ecosystems.” She spent two years documenting the tribe’s rituals and aesthetics, culminating in her first solo exhibition, which ran through March in Houston. It included a video installation of Ogoni dancing around pipelines—the lively and powerful contrasted with the inorganic and inert—and the first-ever photographs of the Ogele, secretive performance groups that emerged in the 1980s wearing masks that celebrated opposition to the oil industry. Saro-Wiwa’s art, the Village Voice said, showcases “the gesture of masking, in all its eerie strength.” (Photo courtesy of Zina Saro-Wiwa)

Born in Ogoni­land, Saro-Wiwa grew up in the United Kingdom. She used to work for the BBC as a presenter on The Culture Show.

The title of her exhibition is Did You Know We Taught Them How to Dance?—a reference to a private conversation she had with her father; the phrase alludes to the idea of self-determination.