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Portrait of an artist: Zina Zoker

My Magazine 2023/07
18 min
Zina Zoker is a talented visual artist making a name for himself in The Gambia. His passion for art and his desire to empower women, raise awareness and promote African culture sets him apart as an artist with a purpose. With each stroke of his brush, Zina Zoker is leaving a lasting impact and inspiring others to embrace their creativity and make a difference through art.

Zina Zoker, popularly known as Zizo, hails from Sukuta in The Gambia. Zizo's artistic journey began at seven when he started sketching in his spare time. However, it wasn't until after completing high school in 2015 that he decided to focus more seriously on his art.

In pursuing artistic growth, Zizo actively sought learning opportunities and began connecting with fellow artists such as Lamin Fatty and Njogu Tourey, who became his mentors. His interactions with them proved invaluable in expanding his skill set and knowledge about the art world.

Zizo also draws inspiration from both local and Nigerian artists, as well as his surroundings. However, one of his biggest inspirations and supports throughout his artistic journey has been his mother. She inspired him and provided unwavering encouragement, belief and support for his talent, which have played a crucial role in his artistic development.

Zizo's art often centres around the beauty and strength of women. He aims to portray women's struggles and social injustices, hoping to empower them through his artwork and encourage them to love and embrace themselves regardless of their size, colour or societal standards.

Furthermore, through his vibrant and expressive paintings, Zizo endeavours to raise awareness about critical issues such as gender-based violence, domestic violence and early child marriages. He seeks to shed light on these pressing issues and hopes to bring about positive changes in the lives of women. He believes that art has the power to transform society and hopes that his work will inspire others to join the fight against these forms of oppression.

Beyond addressing social issues, Zizo also strives to depict the beauty of Africa through his art. He believes that Africa is a continent rich in culture, diversity and natural wonders, and he sees himself as an ambassador of African heritage through his artistic creations. His vibrant and dynamic paintings often feature elements of rich African traditions, diverse landscapes, nature and daily life, captivating viewers with his expressive portrayal of his surroundings. Zizo believes that art has the power to unite people and foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of different cultures.

Zizo has worked with several individuals in group art exhibitions to encourage other local artists, male and female, to display their talents. One such exhibition was held at The Key Art Gallery, and its theme was gender-based violence. In 2021 Zizo held his first solo art exhibition at Yosh Restaurant themed "culture", where he focussed on things like the local musical instruments such as the Kora, the attires, the Kora players and so on.

In June this year, a Sip & Paint event was held at Yosh Restaurant to encourage people to paint and bring out their creativity. Zizo incorporated a unique approach to his exhibition by providing attendees with an engaging and interactive experience.

Despite his talent and passion, Zizo has faced numerous challenges on his artistic journey. One of the main obstacles he encountered was the lack of art infrastructure and opportunities in The Gambia. However, he didn't let this deter him from pursuing his passion. His perseverance and dedication have driven him to overcome these obstacles and carve out a space for himself as an artist.

Zizo pursued his studies in architecture as it was the closest thing to art. However, he finds true fulfilment only through his art. But he uses the income from selling the house plans to invest in art supplies and continue developing his artistic skills.

In addition to showcasing his artwork, Zizo is also passionate about giving back to the community. He urges his fellow Gambians to embrace their creative talents and confidently share their artistic expressions with the world. To help them achieve this, he plans to organize art workshops, providing them with an opportunity to explore their creativity and express themselves through art. Zizo believes that by supporting and nurturing young talent, he can play an instrumental role in shaping the future of the Gambian art scene.

He also envisions working closely with hotels to organize Sip and Paint art sessions for tourists. By exchanging ideas and experiences with artists from different cultures, he hopes to continue growing and evolving in his artistic practice.

But he does not want his art to be appreciated by tourists only. He would like the Gambians to embrace his art and that of other local artists and to proudly display it in their homes and places of work.

Zizo is currently working with Black Magique at Senegambia, where his art is on display. You can also check his amazing artwork on social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Zizo's ultimate message is one of encouragement and empowerment. His story is a testament to the power of passion, determination and the importance of supporting local art scenes. Through his dedication, he is creating beautiful artwork and inspiring others to embrace their creativity and celebrate the vibrant culture of The Gambia.

Don't miss Zina's next Sip & Paint event, scheduled for July 22 at Yosh. Book your spot with us and follow our events to be informed about what is happening in The Gambia!

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