Top female visual artists to represent Zim at Italian exhibition

Portia Zvavahera


TOP female visual artists Portia Zvavahera and Kudzanai Violet Hwami have been selected to represent the nation at the forthcoming 59th edition of the International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia in Venice Italy.

The exhibition titled The Milk of Dreams is scheduled to open from April 23 to November 27 curated by Cecilia Alemani.

Alemani started the showcase as “a trans-historic exhibition, creating a dialogue between the present and past and creating a dialogue between stories of exclusion”.

National Gallery of Zimbabwe executive director-cum-commissioner of the Pavilion of Zimbabwe, Raphael Chikukwa said the selection of Zvavahera and Hwami showed that Zimbabwean art resonated with international curators.

“We must, as a country, celebrate with these two artists as they represent our art practice as Zimbabwe at large. This double celebration and participation at the 59th la Biennale di Venezia means a lot for us as the National Gallery of Zimbabwe and the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation,” he said.

The curator of the Pavilion of Zimbabwe, Fadzai Muchemwa said she was proud of Zvavahera and Hwami, adding that their appearance showed that consistency and hard work paid.

This is not the first time for Zvavahera and United Kingdom-based Hwami to represent the nation at such a global showcase having previously showcased their talent in Venice under the Pavilion of Zimbabwe in separate editions.

Zvavahera exhibited in Dudziro: Interrogating the Vision of Religious Beliefs at the 55th edition of la Biennale di Venezia in 2013, while Hwami showcased in Soko Risina Musoro: A Tale without a Head, at the 58th edition in 2019.

The duo (Zvavahera and Hwami) became the first artists to be selected for the main exhibition in the Giardini and Arsenale since the late Nicholas Mukomberanwa was invited to exhibit in the 44th edition of la Biennale di Venezia in 1990.

Zvavahera’s ethereal paintings are inspired by dreams, mysticism, and the figurative painting tradition of Zimbabwe.

In 2020, her painting Arising from the Unknown (2019) sold at Phillips, London for $212 383 — nearly three times the work’s high estimate.

She has presented her work at David Zwirner in London and in New York.

In Zvavahera’s paintings, vibrant colour and expressive brushwork give way to fantastic figures that conjure spiritual or transcendental associations.

Hwami’s powerful work explores sexuality, race and gender. Her paintings feature tender portraits of black subjects, free-associative abstract brushwork, and layered collage elements.

Her canvases have an intimate and chaotic, immediate and timeless feel. Hwami draws on her experience of growing up across Southern Africa to inform her painting practice as she often works from sourced images and family photographs.

She has exhibited at galleries throughout the United Kingdom, locally and Martinique. Her work has been acquired by multiple public collections, including Nando’s Art Collection in the UK, Fondation Blachere in France, and the Sindika Dokolo Foundation in Angola.

Hwami’s layered canvases grapple with the artist’s sense of geographical displacement and consider how black life is represented in Western media and art.

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