Kudzanai-Violet Hwami was born in Gutu, Zimbabwe in 1993. She lived in South Africa from the age of nine to 17 when she moved to London, where she now works and lives. This year, she is representing the Zimbabwe pavilion at the Venice Biennale, the youngest person to have shown at the biennale. Following a recent residency in South Africa, she now has a solo show of works made specifically for the gallery space Gasworks in London. Curated by Alessio Antoniolli, it is entitled (15,952km) via Trans-Sahara Hwy N1. The show has created an exciting energy, encouraged by events such as a tour of the show by Zoé Whitley, senior curator of the Hayward Gallery, and an “in conversation” with the painter Michael Armitage.
Jessica Draper: Since graduating from Wimbledon College of Arts, you have represented Zimbabwe in the Venice Biennale. I think, at 26, you are the youngest person ever to have represented a country at the biennale.
Kudzanai-Violet Hwami: Oh, right, I didn’t know that.
JD: What have been the most rewarding moments for you since graduating?
K-VH: The highlight has been Venice. It is the best place to have your work in conversation with other artists. It is amazing. I was there with three other artists, Georgina Maxim, Neville Starling and Cosmas Shiridzinomwa. We are all quite different artists, so it was a surprising combination speaking around the same theme, housed in the same space. I don’t think it would have happened without [the curator] Raphael Chikukwa having brought everyone together, so it was interesting how that happened.
JD: Did you make paintings specifically for Venice?
K-VH: Yes and no. The imagery included in the painting Hole in Heaven came from a collage I made in 2017. When we were asked by Raphael to reference the epic poem written by Herbert Chitepo titled Soko Risina Musoro, which translates as “The Tale Without a Head”, I immediately remembered that collage. I thought, finally, I can paint this and get it out of the way! That painting influenced the entire body of work I made for Venice.
Image: Kudzanai-Violet Hwami in her studio at Gasworks, London, 2019