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

Blaffer Art Museum, University of Houston, Houston, TX, United States
25 Sep 2015 - 19 Dec 2015

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

Zina Saro-Wiwa, Brotherhood 2 from Karikpo Pipeline, 2015, courtesy of the artist

Did You Know We Taught Them How to Dance? is the first solo museum presentation of new works by British-Nigerian 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, the exhibition uses folklore, masquerade traditions, religious practices, food and Nigerian popular aesthetics to test art’s capacity to transform and to envision new concepts of environment and environmentalism. Engaging Niger Delta residents both as subjects and collaborators, Zina 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.

The exhibition is accompanied by a full color catalog with essays by writer Taiye Selasi, Niger Delta historian Ebiegberi Joe Alagoa, environmental cultural studies scholar Stephanie LeMenager, exhibition curator Amy L. Powell, an interview with the artist by Princeton art historian Chika Okeke-Agulu. The book also features recipes created by Saro-Wiwa.

Zina Saro-Wiwa: Did You Know We Taught Them How to Dance? is organized by Amy L. Powell, curator of modern and contemporary art at Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois, and co-produced with Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston.

Did You Know We Taught Them How to Dance? opens with a reception from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25, and continues through Dec. 19 at Blaffer before traveling to Krannert Art Museum in 2016.


Zina Saro-Wiwa is a video artist and filmmaker. Her award-winning documentary This Is My Africa, which featured interviewees Lupita Nyong’o, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Colin Firth, John Akomfrah and Yinka Shonibare MBE, among others, was shown on HBO and screened at Michael Stevenson Gallery in Cape Town, October Gallery in London, the Newark Museum, the Brooklyn Museum and many international film festivals. In 2010, for Location One Gallery in New York, Saro-Wiwa produced and co-curated the group exhibition Sharon Stone in Abuja, which explored the narrative and visual conventions of the Nigerian “Nollywood” video-film industry through Saro-Wiwa’s video installations and works by Wangechi Mutu, Mickalene Thomas, Andrew Esiebo and Pieter Hugo. She has realized commissions for The Menil Collection, Seattle Art Museum and The New York Times, and her works have been shown at the Pulitzer Foundation, Moderna Museet, Stevenson Gallery and Goodman Gallery, among other institutions. Saro-Wiwa’s work is in the collections of Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, and the Houston Museum of African American Culture, as well as private collections in the U.S., U.K. and the Caribbean. In 2013, Saro-Wiwa founded Boys’ Quarters Project Space, a contemporary art gallery in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, which she used as a home base for the works in Did You Know We Taught Them How to Dance?





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