Kudzanai-Violet Hwami was born in Gutu, Zimbabwe in 1993, and lived in South Africa from the ages of 9 to 17. She currently lives and works in the UK. In 2016, the same year she graduated from Wimbledon College of Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, she was awarded the Clyde & Co. Award and the Young Achiever of the Year Award at the Zimbabwean International Women’s Awards, as well as being shortlisted for Bloomberg New Contemporaries. In 2017, she mounted her first solo show, If you keep going South, you’ll meet yourself, at Tyburn Gallery, which was critically acclaimed by critics and the press.
Hwami’s courageous and tender oil paintings reveal a deeply personal vision of Southern African life. Many of her paintings feature self-portraits and images of her immediate and extended family. Powerful nudes are another point of departure, boldly raising questions about the black body and its representation, as well as sexuality, gender and spirituality. Her influences include music, such as ZimHeavy & Afrobeats; literature, including the works of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Carl Jung; and her own ongoing voyage of self-discovery.
The artist’s vivid work raises issues surrounding diaspora, displacement and identity. Her process involves experimenting with photography and digitally collaged images, using these to create large works on paper or canvas with intensely pigmented oil paint, and often incorporating other media and techniques, such as silkscreen, pastel or charcoal.
Recent group exhibitions include Les Ateliers de Rennes – Biennale d’Art Contemporain, curated by Céline Kopp and Étienne Bernard, Rennes, France (2018); 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); Talisman in the Age of Difference, curated by Yinka Shonibare MBE, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, UK (2018); Ladies by Ladies, Espace Art Absolument, Paris, France (2018); Afriques: artistes d’hier et d’aujourd’hui, Fondation Clément, Martinique (2018); and Discoloured Margins, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe (2017).
In 2019, Hwami will present work at the 58th Venice Biennale as part of the Zimbabwe pavilion, as well as mounting her first institutional solo exhibition at Gasworks in London, UK. She will also begin an MFA at the Ruskin School of Art at Oxford University.