In Zina Saro-Wiwa’s video-performance Worrying the Mask: The Politics of Authenticity and Contemporaneity in the Worlds of African Art (2020), she questions the authority of the museum and its outmoded colonial practices and shifts the restitution debate into genuinely radical new territory. She exposes the desires and limitations of the storytelling surrounding African traditional objects whether in the country of origin or in the country of display and goes on to ask whether an object can represent a people at all or if they, in fact, have a life of their own. She suggests that our attempts to understand, explain and truly benefit from these works as a society may require a fundamental ontological shift.
In conjunction with this presentation, Saro-Wiwa will host a three-day in-person engagement session around Agnes’s African collection with community members and students as well as a conversation with Dr Qanita Lilla, curator of the exhibition With Opened Mouths. Stay tuned for more details!
Artist Zina Saro-Wiwa (b. 1976, Port Harcourt, Nigeria) lives and works between Los Angeles and Port Harcourt, Nigeria. In April 2017, Saro-Wiwa was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for Fine Arts. She has given talks and shown works regularly at biennales, museums and art fairs around the world including MoMA and Tate Modern.
Image: Zina Saro-Wiwa, Worrying the Mask: The Politics of Authenticity and Contemporaneity in the Worlds of African Art (detail), 2020, video. Purchase, The Gallery Association Purchase Fund, 2021