Kudzanai-Violet Hwami is one of the youngest emerging contemporary African artists. Her vivid work is deeply connected to issues surrounding diaspora, displacement and identity. She experiments both with photography and digitally collages images to create her works on canvas with intensely pigmented oil paint and other techniques such as pastel, charcoal and silkscreen.
About Kudzanai-Violet Hwami
Born in Gutu, Zimbabwe in 1993, Kudzanai-Violet Hwami lived in South Africa aged 9 to 17. She currently resides and works in the UK. In 2016, she graduated from Wimbledon College of Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and was awarded the Clyde & Co. Award as well as the Young Achiever of the Year Award at the Zimbabwean International Women’s Awards.
The young artist was forced to leave her birthplace due to political instability. In her work, she often traces her journey from her actual home in London to Zimbabwe. This journey can be deeply felt in her first solo show at Gasworks in London. The mixture of both her British identity and Zimbabwean heritage are represented beautifully on the canvas.
Fragments of what to call home
The artist’s paintings are often fragmented and broken up. She reflects on the experience of feeling othered in a place that she should call home, where some figures are painted on top of photographs and others are scribbled out. In some of her works, multiple references are layered, with figures on top of maps and photographs all collaged together to form the background. This part of the work is produced on a tablet, serving as a reminder as most of what Kudzanai-Violet Hwami saw of her birthplace was on a back-lit screen. Her works Bira (2019) and Newtown (2019) are perfect representations of this.
Her works show both displacement along with attempts at reconciliation. With some of her paintings reflecting on lived experiences and other family photographs; the diasporic experience of being foreign in both places she calls home is intense.
Her vision through her paintings
Kudzanai-Violet Hwami’s works reveal a very personal vision of Southern African life. Her paintings very often feature her own self as well as images of her immediate and extended family. Through powerful nudes which boldly raise questions about the black body and its representation. Issues around sexuality, gender and spirituality are also questioned.
Her paintings also display colonial routes, political power and displacement which were represented in her exhibition titled (15,952km) via Trans-Sahara Hwy N1. The works not only map the distance and route between the artist’s hometown in Zimbabwe and London, they also portray Kudzanai-Violet Hwami’s background and her journey into adulthood in the UK.
Her work was presented at the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019 as part of the Zimbabwe Pavilion. The same year she mounted her first institutional solo exhibition in London at Gasworks. Some of her group exhibitions include Five Bhobh – Painting at the End of an Era, Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town, South Africa (2018); Vos désirs sont les nôtres, Triangle France, Marseille, France (2018); and Discoloured Margins, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe (2017) among many others.