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In Conversation with Kudzanai-Violet Hwami

Posted in Art Market  |  January 15, 2022

In Conversation with Kudzanai-Violet Hwami
Kudzanai-Violet Hwami is a young African painter on the rise, with her figurative works of black people which explore themes of identity, sexuality, and displacement. She is among a new wave of African artists whose works are currently trending on an art market looking for more inclusive stories. Her work engages in the deconstruction of stereotypes on the black body, using more spiritual or social symbols than political message. Her juxtaposed images create non-linear paintings that depict a way of existing in multiple temporalities.

In search of a spiritual connection with her homeland, Hwami immersed herself in the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe, and lived with a traditional healer. Upon returning to London, she experimented with photography and digital collage, trying to represent the simultaneity of disparate experiences – social, cultural, and spiritual. Explaining her creative process, she outlined the importance of experimentation: “Because I am working with collage beforehand, before I’ve painted the image. What happens is the element of surprise is no longer there. And I guess I do try in certain moment to surprise myself. And I think I did it with a series of small works because they were painted individually and then put together.”

Hwami thought about experimenting with various scale of paintings after visiting an exhibition of another artist. “I thought there was something magical about really small scale paintings and how they sort of invite you in. With the large scale paintings you are just bombarded by images (…) So, I think I was interested in playing around with scale”, she said. She also explained her process of bridging scaled images and online tools to depict the daily lives of her subjects: “The small paintings that I made that are in the series titled The Speaking in Tongues is referring also to the digital age where, you know, the scale of the painting is a square and kind of remind me of Tumblr and Instagram and how you are just swiping through images.”

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami was born in 1993 in Gutu, Zimbabwe. Her family left the country due to political unrest and they settled in South Africa. After few years there, she moved to London, United Kingdon, where she studied in fine art and graduated in 2016. Influenced by her experiences of geographical dislocation, Hwami's intensely pigmented paintings bear witness to her desire to reconnect with Zimbabwe, her homeland. The artist combines found images with photos of her family and friends as well as her own body to create composite portraits, which forced her to confront the notions of belonging and rootedness.