Painter Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, 2019. | Photo © Jo Metson Scott


VICTORIA MIRO IN LONDON has added Kudzanai-Violet Hwami (b. 1993, Zimbabwe) to its roster. Hwami’s work explores themes of identity, displacement, the diaspora, and the Black body, often in the form of intimate nudes. Working with sourced images and family photographs, she makes figurative paintings layered with moments of abstraction and objects of symbolism that suggest a narrative, locate her subjects, and collapse time.

Victoria Miro is opening an online group exhibition tomorrow that will feature “Lotus” (2020), a new painting by Hwami. Organized by Reprieve Collective, a human rights organization, with the extended reality (XR) app Vortic Collect, the show marks National Human Rights Day on Dec. 10. Hwami’s first solo exhibition with the gallery will be presented in summer 2021.

“Violet is one of the most extraordinary young voices to have emerged in contemporary painting in recent years. Her highly personal approach results in a freshness of vision and a sense of intimacy in her works that are at once exuberant, tender and socially incisive, and I am very excited to be working together,” Victoria Miro said in a statement.

Here is how the gallery describes Hwami’s practice:

    Drawing on her experiences of geographical dislocation and displacement, her paintings combine visual fragments from a myriad of sources such as online images and personal photographs, which collapse past and present.

    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 Zim Heavy and Afrobeats; and literature, including the works of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Carl Jung. Her process involves experimenting with photography and digitally collaged images, using these to create large works on paper or canvas in combination with intensely pigmented oil paint, and often incorporating other media and techniques, such as silkscreen, pastel or charcoal.


KUDZANAI-VIOLET HWAMI, “Lotus,” 2020 (oil on canvas, 130 x 138 cm). | © Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro


Hwami was born in Gutu, Zimbabwe, spent her formative years in South Africa, and currently baed in the UK. The artist has said: “With the collapsing of geography and time and space, no longer am I confined in a singular society but simultaneously I am experiencing Zimbabwe and South Africa and the UK, in my mind. I’m in the UK, but I carry those places with me everywhere I go.”

“With the collapsing of geography and time and space, no longer am I confined in a singular society but simultaneously I am experiencing Zimbabwe and South Africa and the UK, in my mind. I’m in the UK, but I carry those places with me everywhere I go.” — Kudzanai-Violet Hwami

In 2016, Hwami was awarded the Young Achiever of the Year Award at the Zimbabwean International Women’s Awards. Tyburn Gallery in London hosted “If You Keep Going South You’ll Meet Yourself,” a solo exhibition of her work in 2017.

Over the past few years, she has gained wider recognition and exposure. Hwami participated in the 58th Venice Biennale (2019), one of four artists representing Zimbabwe. “Kudzanai-Violet Hwami: (15,952km) via Trans-Sahara Hwy N1,” her first solo institutional exhibition was on view at Gasworks in London in fall 2019. Earlier this year, her work was featured in “I See You,” a group show at Victoria Miro.

She has a BFA from the Wimbledon College of Arts in London (2016) and is completing an MFA at the Ruskin School of Art at Oxford University.


KUDZANAI-VIOLET HWAMI, “Green Splash,” 2020 (oil and acrylic on canvas, 180 x 130cm). | © Kudzanai-Violet Hwami. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro


HWAMI IS JOINING a roster of more than 40 artists at Victoria Miro. The gallery also represents Njideka Akunyili-Crosby, Stan Douglas, Isaac Julien, Wangechi Mutu, Chris Ofili, and Howardena Pindell.

Today’s representation announcement follows the sale yesterday of “Eve on Psilocybin” (2018) at Phillips 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session. An example of one of Hwami’s female nudes, the painting far exceeded its auction estimate selling for about six times more. (A portion of Phillips’s revenue from the sale benefitted the Cuperior Residency in Berlin.) In October, “Sango neMuchero” (2014), a male nude, sold at Christie’s for about seven times the estimate.

T: The New York Times Style Magazine asked five artists to design holiday cards. (They are available to download and print.) Hwami contributed an untitled collage image of a potted planted against a deep crimson background, a direct reference to Zimbabwe.

She said: “For this digital collage, which is part of my ‘Antennas to Ancestors’ series, I manipulated the colors to render an imagined muhacha tree in the foreground fluorescent green. The muhacha is one of the most sacred trees in Zimbabwe. Traditionalists and spiritual mediums describe it as an antenna that connects the Shona to their ancestors, or Vadzimu. The series is also an ode to Shavi, the alien spirits that influenced most Shona sculptors from mid-1900s to the 1980s.”

On the occasion of her Gasworks exhibition, Hwami spoke with Kenyan-born, London-based artist Michael Armitage. During the conversation published by Ocula, Hwami made a succinct and profound statement about her work. She said: “I paint because of the pleasure of painting and having a direct connection between the mind and the hand; the idea of being a master in painting or being skilful and proving to myself that I’m worth something—that I’m good at something. That’s why I paint.” CT


FIND MORE In September, Kudzanai-Violet Hwami was named one of 40 Under 40 art world figures in Africa to watch by Apollo magazine


Lot 401: KUDZANAI-VIOLET HWAMI, “Eve on Psilocybin,” 2018 (oil on canvas, 51 1/8 x 54 3/8 inches / 129.9 x 138.1 cm). © Kudzanai-Violet Hwami | Estimate $30,000-$40,000. Sold for $252,000 fees included, at Phillips on Dec. 8, 2020. ARTIST RECORD


Do you enjoy and value Culture Type? Please consider supporting its ongoing production by making a donation. Culture Type is an independent editorial project that requires countless hours and expense to research, report, write, and produce. To help sustain it, make a one-time donation or sign up for a recurring monthly contribution. It only takes a minute. Happy Holidays and Many Thanks for Your Support.