Kudzanai-Violet Hwami creates collages that consume the figures within them in colour and painterly forms. Her paintings are pieced together with precision, but there is something unorthodox about them: the figures are self-contained, sometimes confrontational, but never self-conscious. Many artists are exploring the meaning of the Black body in art, and rightly so. But with Hwami, the imagined worlds that hold those bodies – incorporating blocks of colour, plants or even a superhero’s cape – are what strike you first.
Still just 27 years old, Hwami represented Zimbabwe at the Venice Biennale in 2019. Born in Zimbabwe in 1993, she moved to neighbouring South Africa when she was nine, then to Manchester in the UK when she was 17. Her solo show, ‘Kudzanai-Violet Hwami: (15,952km) via Trans-Sahara Hwy N1’, commissioned by London’s Gasworks in 2019, was well-received, and she finishes her master’s in fine arts at Oxford University’s Ruskin School of Art next summer. When she arrived in Manchester, she chose to study for a BTec national diploma in art and design at North Manchester College. ‘I liked the freedom that I had. I had a choice and what I really wanted to do was draw,’ she recalls.
Hwami always drew. Inspiration came from Cartoon Network. She loved the otherworldliness of manga and would perpetually draw versions of her favourite programmes. ‘I would probably have gone into animation had I not been on that course. I met this tutor, an amazing guy who at the time was my mentor, and he encouraged me to paint, and I think that’s where the journey began,’ she says. ‘That’s why I took it seriously.’
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