Zarina Bhimji


Zarina Bhimji, born in Mbarara, Uganda, 1963, is an artist who lives and works in London. Bhimji received a BA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths, University of London and a MA in Fine Art from the Slade, University College London. She was DAAD’s Artist-in-Residence 2002, exhibited in the 2002 edition of documenta, the Venice Biennale in 2003and was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2007. Awards include the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award in 1999 and the Rauschenberg Residency award, 2014; Bhimji was awarded a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, 2020-21. She has had solo institutional exhibitions at Whitechapel Gallery (2012), Tate Britain (2018) and Sharjah Art Foundation (2020).


Bhimji came to critical attention as part of the Black Art movement in the 1980s. She was selected for group exhibiitons looking at that movement such as ‘From Two Worlds’ at the Whitechapel Gallery (1986) and ‘The Essential BLACK ART’ at Chisenhale Gallery (1988). It is however arguable that her work differed from many of her peers in that movement by not being overtly didactic and instead focusing on questions such as institutional power and individual vulnerability as well as themes such as beauty and intimacy. Over the next decade Bhimji became known for making works that were deliberately enigmatic and opaque whilst circling around issues such as migration, diaspora, memory and trauma. Exhibition highlights from the 1990s include Intimate Distance and The Impossible Science of Being, both The Photographers’ Gallery, London, UK (1990 and 1995 respectively) and In/Sight, Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA (1996).


In 2002 Bhimji presented her film ‘Out of Blue’ at documents 11. The work summary at Tate, which subsequently acquired the work notes: “The rich colour and careful composition of the film’s images and poetic solemnity of its soundtrack…are startling in their beauty. While the work invites the viewer to confront the person and the collective memory of brutality, Bhimji’s focus on the natural world’s tenacious ability to sustain growth suggests a similar potential for regeneration and healing in the socio-political realm.”


Since then Bhimji’s work has featured in numerous biennales and international events and exhibitions. Her work is held in public collections including Tate, Sharjah Art Foundation, The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Moderna Museet, Government Art Collection, Perez Art Museum, Wadsworth Kadist Art Foundation, Arts Council Collection and Victoria & Albert Museum as well as many private collections.