Kudzanai-Violet Hwami at Gasworks

Artist: Kudzanai-Violet Hwami

Exhibition title: (15,952km) via Trans-Sahara Hwy N1

Venue: Gasworks, London, UK

Date: September 19 – December 15, 2019

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Gasworks, London

Gasworks presents (15,952km) via Trans-Sahara Hwy N1, the first institutional solo exhibition by London-based artist Kudzanai-Violet Hwami. Born in Zimbabwe, Hwami left her homeland at the age of nine amidst political turmoil. Drawing on personal experiences of geographical dislocation and displacement, her intensely pigmented paintings combine visual fragments from a myriad of sources such as online images and haunting family photographs, which collapse past and present into bold afro-futuristic visions.

While memories and visions of childhood in Zimbabwe have dominated her work to date, Gasworks’ exhibition bears testimony to her desire to reconnect with her country of origin, combining found images with pictures taken during a recent visit that forced her to confront her romantic notions of belonging and rootedness.

Looking for a way to immerse herself in present day Zimbabwe, Hwami spent a month at Dzimbanhete, an artist run space in the outskirts of Harare, and lived with a traditional healer. However, instead of gaining the spiritual connection she was seeking, this experience made her feel removed and ‘othered’ by the inability to fully embed herself in the context she calls home.

Hwami’s new work embodies this personal search by layering digital collages produced on a tablet. These images become the starting point for large-scale canvases, a process that reflects on the specific role of mediation taken by digital technology and online communication in the everyday lives of diasporic subjects. The resulting work overlaps narratives and combines stories that provide a personal take on the representation of black bodies, gender and sexuality, while also raising questions about family roots and colonial routes, spirituality, political power and displacement. Within this, the exhibition’s title, (15,952km) via Trans-Sahara Hwy N1, literally maps the distance and route between Hwami’s home town in Zimbabwe and London. It also talks about Hwami’s physical and spiritual background as well as her journey into adulthood in the UK.

After representing Zimbabwe at the 58th Venice Biennale, Hwami’s Gasworks exhibition presents her most ambitious body of work continuing her personal reflection on uprooting and re-grounding. Bold and tender, Hwami’s work interweaves memory, testimony, imagination and the political longing for a truer world.

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami is a London-based artist born in Zimbabwe and raised in South Africa. She is represented by Tyburn Gallery.

Recent exhibitions include: Zimbabwe Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, 2019; Les Ateliers de Rennes–Biennale d’Art Contemporain, Rennes; Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town; Triangle France, Marseille; Stephen Friedman Gallery, London; Espace Art Absolument, Paris; Fondation Clément, Martinique (all 2018); National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare; Tyburn Gallery, London (all 2017). In 2016, the same year she graduated from college, Hwami was awarded the Clyde & Co Award and the Young Achiever of the Year Award at the Zimbabwean International Women’s Awards, as well as featured in Bloomberg New Contemporaries.

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, Medicine man, 2019. Oil on canvas. 120 x 120 cm. Commissioned by Gasworks. Courtesy of the artist and Tyburn Gallery. Photo: Andy Keate.

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, (15,952km) via Trans-Sahara Hwy N1, 2019. Installation view, Gasworks. Commissioned by Gasworks. Courtesy of the artist and Tyburn Gallery. Photo: Andy Keate.

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, Newtown, 2019. Oil on canvas. 180 x 150 cm. Commissioned by Gasworks. Courtesy of the artist and Tyburn Gallery. Photo: Andy Keate.

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, (15,952km) via Trans-Sahara Hwy N1, 2019. Installation view, Gasworks. Commissioned by Gasworks. Courtesy of the artist and Tyburn Gallery. Photo: Andy Keate

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, Bira, 2019. Oil on canvas. 180 x 150 cm. Commissioned by Gasworks. Courtesy of the artist and Tyburn Gallery. Photo: Andy Keate

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, (15,952km) via Trans-Sahara Hwy N1, 2019. Installation view, Gasworks. Commissioned by Gasworks. Courtesy of the artist and Tyburn Gallery. Photo: Andy Keate.

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, Speaking in tounges, 2019. Oil on canvas. Series of 18, 30 x 30 cm each. Commissioned by Gasworks. Courtesy of the artist and Tyburn Gallery. Photo: Andy Keate

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, (15,952km) via Trans-Sahara Hwy N1, 2019. Installation view, Gasworks. Commissioned by Gasworks. Courtesy of the artist and Tyburn Gallery. Photo: Andy Keate

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, Untitled, 2019. Oil on canvas. 30 x 30 cm. Commissioned by Gasworks. Courtesy of the artist and Tyburn Gallery. Photo: Andy Keate

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, Sitting by Sekuru’s grave, 2019. Oil on canvas. 120 x 120 cm. Commissioned by Gasworks. Courtesy of the artist and Tyburn Gallery. Photo: Andy Keate

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, With all your friends, 2019. Oil on canvas. 30 x 30 cm. Commissioned by Gasworks. Courtesy of the artist and Tyburn Gallery. Photo: Andy Keate

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, Untitled, 2019. Oil on canvas. 45 x 50 cm. Commissioned by Gasworks. Courtesy of the artist and Tyburn Gallery. Photo: Andy Keate