Zarina Bhimji (b.1963) is a multimedia artist based in London. Born in Mbarara, Uganda, she came to the U.K in 1974 following the expulsion of Asian communities from Uganda under Idi Amin’s regime. She didn’t return to Uganda until 1998, by which time she had finished her education at Leicester Polytechnic (1982-1983), Goldsmiths’ College (1983-1986) and Slade School of Fine Art (1987-1989). Zarina’s education allowed her to see her birthplace through a sharpened lens, laying the foundation for her subsequent body of work.
Much of the award-winning artist’s work is underpinned by the postcolonial legacies that shape memory, identity, and the place-making processes which she thoughtfully explores within her practise. Zarina’s use of medium is impressive; she is able to seamlessly merge photography, film, sound, poetry, and recently embroidery, allowing her to generate sensory experiences within her work. One such example is Zarina’s installation Lead White and its counterpart– a monograph that brings together decades worth of research which she refers to as her ‘detective work’ into Zanzibar’s history and consequently, its present.
Zarina’s work, which spans over 30 years and is featured in galleries such as the Tate, Whitechapel, and the Haunch of Venison, has continued to evolve. The unique power of her work rests in her ability to capture the essence of human experience in a body of work that rarely features people. Her earlier works such as Cleaning the Garden and Out of the Blue centre around systems of order and how they disguise alternate forms of knowledge, while in her more recent work there is a strong emphasis on landscape and architecture. Since her first solo exhibition I Will Always Be Here, which debuted at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, she has been featured in various solo shows and group exhibitions both in the UK and globally. In 2003, she won the ICP Infinity Award for Art and in 2007 she was shortlisted for the Turner Prize, where she displayed her film Waiting – an exploration of loss and grief caused by the expulsion of Ugandan Asians from the country.
Zarina continues to draw global recognition. The Sharjah Art Foundation, which features contemporary artists from around the world, is hosting her solo exhibition Black Pocket which presents a number of her seminal works across film, photography, and installation. It has been on since October 2020 and will run until April 2021. Recently, Zarina also featured in the RA Summer Exhibition which you can still enjoy through their virtual tour here.
By Sena Nwosu