Interview

5 things that inspire Zarina Bhimji

Meet the artist engaging with cultural and social politics through five personal items

I’m Zarina Bhimji and I am in my studio at the moment and this is where I work.

I think it took me a while to admit to myself that I’m an artist.

When I made my first film that’s when I decided I wanted to marry my work. That’s what I decided.

This is my camera. I use it to shoot in transparency and it’s a medium format camera. Without this I wouldn’t be able to do any work. It’s my little baby.

It was really important to me to be technically independent because when I was a student it was a territory that was not easily accessible I felt.

Until I’ve processed the film and looked at the film on my lightbox, I always think I’ve got nothing in it. I always think the trip is wasted, you know? And that’s probably how I keep myself going.

I do this sometimes when I’m tired. It’s a lot easier. At the end of the shoot I sit on it because I think ‘thank god for that, we’re finished!’

I wanted to show you these shoes. I bought these when I was going to film in Africa. I thought these shoes might give me good luck.

I thought these shoes were really interesting because I was interested in the idea of evidence and the bottom of the shoes, if you took them under a microscope, perhaps you would discover a different form of questions.

Where it’s walked. Who it’s met. What it did.

This has been in my studio for a long time. I took this photograph when I first made my trip to India.

I took this without knowing what I was doing.

All I remember was he said to me: ‘can you adopt me? Can I come to England?’

But this photograph has taught me a lot because of the way he’s standing. His eyes, his button-holes, give off what I call like a ‘puncture’, a moment of emotion. But it’s formal. And I think maybe that’s what my work is about. Where is the emotion? Where is the physicality?

When he said ‘take me with you’, in a way I have.

This was worn by my mum when she, I think, met my dad the first time. It’s, I think, very old in the family. It reminds me of a certain moment in time.

It’s a different sensibility to paint on canvas. It’s not about the embroidery. It’s about a certain kind of echo.

The colour scheme in here is really interesting and I think when I grade my films it’s been unconsciously without knowing partly inspired by this sort of colouring.

Can I show you something that I have from my school days?

Early school was a problem because I didn’t speak English. I couldn’t read and write.

I ended up in care in a children’s home and that was where I really realised that I need to get my act together here, if I’m going to survive. And so I just worked and worked and worked.

I remember my foster mother saying that you might not be able to go to university, but you could do something with your hands. And I thought, you know, wow! So I believed in that.

I think that everybody should have equal access.

I sort of worry that the culture comes from one place. I feel that culture should be coming from all sorts of voices. And I think when I’m feeling fed up of working I remind myself why that is important.

I feel that culture should be coming from all sorts of voices. And I think when I’m feeling fed up of working I remind myself why that is important.

Zarina Bhimji

We visit artist Zarina Bhimji’s London studio to discover five personal objects that have inspired and informed the artist’s work.

A camera

Zarina Bhimji's camera

Zarina Bhimji's camera. Photo © Tate Digital.

This is my camera. Without this I wouldn’t be able to do any work. It’s my little baby.

It was really important to me to be technically independent because when I was a student it was a territory that was not easily accessible, I felt.

Until I’ve processed the film and looked at the film on my lightbox, I always think I’ve got nothing in it. I always think the trip is wasted. And that’s probably how I keep myself going.

A pair of shoes

Zarina Bhimji's shoes

Zarina Bhimji's shoes. Photo © Tate Digital.

I bought these when I was going to film in Africa. I thought these shoes might give me good luck.

I thought these shoes were really interesting because I was interested in the idea of evidence and the bottom of the shoes, if you took them under a microscope, perhaps you would discover a different form of questions: where it’s walked, who it’s met, what it did.

A photograph

A photograph by Zarina Bhimji

A photograph by Zarina Bhimji © Zarina Bhimji. Photo © Tate Digital.

This has been in my studio for a long time. I took this photograph when I first made my trip to India.

All I remember was he said to me: ‘can you adopt me, can I come to England?’

This photograph has taught me a lot because of the way he’s standing. His eyes, his button-holes, give off what I call like a ‘puncture’, a moment of emotion. But it’s formal. And I think maybe that’s what my work is about. Where is the emotion? Where is the physicality?

A scarf

Zarina Bhimji's scarf

Zarina Bhimji's scarf. Photo © Tate Digital.

This was worn by my mum when she first met my dad. It’s very old in the family. It reminds me of a certain moment in time.

It’s a different sensibility to paint on canvas. It’s not about the embroidery. It’s about a certain kind of echo.

The colour scheme in here is really interesting and I think when I grade my films it’s been unconsciously without knowing partly inspired by this sort of colouring.

A book

Zarina Bhimji's book

A book from Zarina Bhimji's childhood. Photo © Tate Digital.

Early school was a problem because I didn’t speak English. I couldn’t read and write.

I remember my foster mother saying that you might not be able to go to university, but you could do something with your hands. And I thought, wow! So I believed in that.

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