Textile work has long been considered feminine or outside the contemporary art world. Working with textiles, Zangewa says, makes the work more relevant because the fabric is part of our daily lives, from our clothes to our sheets and curtains. She views the silk as a “by-product of transformation”, a key element of progress in our individual lives and the betterment of society as a whole. “When I started doing my work, I think people didn't really understand the social issues that I was dealing with because it was so subtle and so it was really rough”, she said.
Born in Malawi and living in South Africa, Billie Zangewa creates intricate collages composed of hand-stitched fragments of raw silk. She plays with materiality, constructing self-portraits and private family scenes that are familiar yet provide another view on the place of black women around the world. “The ordinary Black woman needs support from society and by creating images around her intimate personal life we're actually saying: 'listen, look, understand that this person is having these experiences. That – this person exists. She's a woman with everyday struggles”, said the artist.