How do we live through and narrate moments of revolution and revolt, and how do we understand these experiences across time and distance? Using imaging technologies to meditate on what it means to witness from afar, Suneil Sanzgiri explores the complexities of anti-colonialism, nationalism, and diasporic identity. His work is inspired by his family’s legacy of resistance in Goa, India, an area under Portuguese occupation for over 450 years until its independence in 1961. Two Refusals (Would We Recognize Ourselves Unbroken?), the artist’s newest two-channel video installation, combines archival footage, animation, interviews, and a script written by poet Sham-e-Ali Nayeem. The film tells the stories of the mutual struggle in India and Africa against Portuguese colonialism, highlighting the solidarity that developed between the two continents during the 1960s and 1970s.
Here the Earth Grows Gold, Sanzgiri’s first solo museum exhibition, pairs the film with a 16 mm projection and new sculptural work. Modeled on bamboo structures seen across South Asia, the assemblage features family photos, 3D renderings, anti-colonial publications, and images of water and red clay soil from Goa that are drawn from his research. Together these works present the concept of diaspora as a way to reconfigure our understanding of history and belonging.
Sanzgiri (born Dallas, Texas, 1989; active in Brooklyn, New York) is the fourth recipient of the UOVO Prize, which recognizes the work of emerging Brooklyn-based artists. Winners receive a solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, a commission for a fifty-square-foot public art installation on the facade of UOVO’s Brooklyn facility, and a $25,000 unrestricted cash grant. Sanzgiri’s mural is on view at UOVO Bushwick through July 2024.
Suneil Sanzgiri: Here the Earth Grows Gold is organized by Drew Sawyer, Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography at the Whitney Museum of American Art (formerly Phillip and Edith Leonian Curator of Photography, Brooklyn Museum), with Imani Williford, Curatorial Assistant, Photography, Fashion and Material Culture, Brooklyn Museum.