‘A utopian dream’ – Zimbabwe’s Kudzanai-Violet Hwami paints diasporic experience in debut solo

British-based, Zimbabwean-born artist Kudzanai-Violet Hwami caused ripples of thought and inspiration across the art world when last week she debuted her first solo painting exhibition, If You Keep Going South You’ll Meet Yourself, currently showing at the Tyburn Gallery in London.

Inspired by a collection of family photographs, the body of work’s flat plains of bold colour and gestural brushstrokes investigate themes of nostalgia and longing of the diaspora experience. Referencing a multitude of cultures and using experimental collage techniques, Kudzanai-Violet fixates on the idea of multiple homes, family ties and collective memory.

“The beauty of being a child of the diaspora is that we can reinvent ourselves and what it means to be African,’’ she says, having lived in three countries — including South Africa — and inhabiting a multitude of milieus. ”From LGBT culture, internet culture, Xhosa, Shona, coloured and British culture; these are the layers that make up my individual experience,” she adds.

Kudzanai-Violet HwamiSam in mother’s factory, 2017.

Kudzanai-Violet — who last year won the Clyde and Co Art Award and the Cass Art Materials Grant, as well as being shortlisted for the Bloomberg New Contemporaries Award — begins her creative process by assembling digital collages before transferring their compositions to large-scale canvases and adding paint. By fusing snippets of images, photographs and text, her works reflect the “contradictions and complications of one individual’s subjectivity’’.

Her artworks celebrate the familiarity and joy of childhood, often in contradiction to the harsh realities of current life, whether concerning frightening political realities or the continuous struggle for LGBTQ rights.

”In my paintings, I like to create a positive future… like a utopian dream. So, I paint the future of Zimbabwe in a light manner instead of painting what goes on now, because that doesn’t help me heal,’’ she remarks, commenting on the Afro-utopianism nature of her work. If You Keep Going South You’ll Meet Yourself is on at the Tyburn Gallery until 15 November. Follow Kudzanai-Violet Hwami.

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami

Young lady with enamel mug (portrait of Chioniso), 2017.

Kudzanai-Violet HwamiWitness to a dreamscape event, 2017.

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami

Family portrait, 2017.

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami

Woman and child, 2017.

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami

Sekuru Koni, 2017.

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami

Girl by the veranda, 2017.

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami

Chafamba Chasvava, 2017.

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami

Sisi neMwana, 2017.

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami

Mbizo station, 2017.

Images courtesy of Tyburn Gallery.


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