For her contribution to sonsbeek, artist Kudzanai-Violet Hwami collaborates with writer and sound artist Belinda Zhawi to create an installation consisting of sound, paintings and film. The installation is centred around ‘Zwarte Anna’ (Black Anna), a black [enslaved] woman from Suriname, who arrived in Arnhem in 1727, accompanying the family she worked for.
The work imagines narratives around Black Anna beyond the servant, departing from the private world(s) she might have created for herself, her person, but also depicting her in moments of rest, reflection and aloneness (not loneliness). A presence for Anna is thereby created beyond her labour. Simultaneously Hwami introduces Paula, a present-day Black Anna, uprooted from her country of origin, working as a servant for a European family. Now the artist wonders who Paula is to this family outside her labour, outside being ‘the help’? Hwami invites the viewer to see Black women’s personhood for what it is: a rich existence beyond the scripts of life that were and still are placed upon them.
Kudzanai-Violet Hwami (1993, Gutu) lived in South Africa from the ages of 9 to 17. She currently lives and works in the UK. In 2016, she graduated from Wimbledon College of Arts, London with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, in the same year she was shortlisted for Bloomberg New Contemporaries and awarded the Clyde & Co. Art Award. In 2017, she mounted her first solo show, If you keep going South, you’ll meet yourself, at Tyburn Gallery, London, which was critically acclaimed by critics and the press. In 2018, she won the Young Achiever award at the Zimbabwe Achievers Awards. 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, literature 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.
Belinda Zhawi is a Zimbabwean literary and sound artist. She is the author of Small Inheritances (ignitionpress, 2018) & South of South East (Bad Betty Press, 2019), co-founder of literary arts platform BORN::FREE & experiments with sound/text performance as MA.MOYO. Her work has been broadcast & published on various platforms including The White Review, NTS Live, Boiler Room & BBC Radio 3, 4 & 6. She has held residencies with ICA London, Serpentine Galleries & Triangle France to name a few. Belinda hosts Juju Fission (RTM FM), a monthly radio broadcast. She lives & works in South East London, UK.
Kudzanai-Violet Hwami in collaboration with Belina Zhawi Baktu, Anna, Nehanda, 2021 Mixed media, sound system, silkscreen, oil, acrylic on canvas, commissioned for sonsbeek20->24, photo by Victor Wennekes