Kudzanai-Violet Hwami - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Thursday, March 30, 2023 | Phillips
  • Kudzanai-Violet Hwami’s oil paintings display a personal and courageous vision of life in Southern Africa, conveying both tenderness and strength. Within her practice, one finds self-portraits and depictions of her family, as well as powerful nudes that challenge societal notions of the black body, sexuality, gender, and spirituality.


    Through her vibrant and striking art, Hwami explores themes related to diaspora, displacement, and identity. She employs a unique process, which involves experimenting with photography and digitally collaged images to create large oil paintings on paper or canvas. Hwami frequently incorporates other mediums, such as silkscreen, pastel, and charcoal, to create truly multidimensional pieces.



    Portraits of Movement


    Let Us Now Praise the Children (Zwizwai Family) confronts us with the icon of family. Hwami weaves a tapestry of nostalgia through repeated monochrome silkscreen prints of familial portrait that echo Andy Warhol’s hallowed use of identical overlapping images. These warm grey tones provide a contemplative ocean for a bouquet of memories intertwined with abstract patterns and shapes. Throughout the composition, we see flickers of pigment that emerge almost autonomously as if Hwami’s very synapses were beginning to protrude through the canvas. The work is crowned by the artist’s own hand: a wedding scene in which the bride and groom face each other, the crowd watching on. The expressive quadrant is rendered in pastel colours and thick brushstroke that join in unison to complement their own materiality.



    Andy Warhol, Elvis Presley (silk-screening), 1963.
    Image: © NPL - DeA Picture Library / Bridgeman Images,
    Artwork: © 2023 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    This balance between a declarative presence and caveats of concealment and indeterminacy is a dialectic that lies at the core of both her work and her life. While Hwami’s works explore the ebbs and flows of memory, they are also concerned with the nuances of identity, and the complex narratives of diaspora. Born in Zimbabwe, she came to study in Manchester, Wimbledon and later at the prestigious Ruskin School of Art in Oxford. Navigating these varying landscapes of life as a Queer woman presents a challenge internally and externally.


    Hwami challenges the conventional approach to identity-driven painting by intentionally disrupting its associated expectations. She achieves this by fracturing her picture planes and incorporating visual cues of censorship in her works. Through this approach, Hwami aims to subvert the notion that identity is an inescapable and dominant aspect of art, particularly within the realm of figurative painting and especially when one belongs to a minority group. As such, her fragmented pictorial planes develop as a kind of collage: ‘To me, painting is a practice that allows me to remain curious and the act of using collage is helpful as a reminder of the fragility of the human condition’i.


    The intimacy that oozes from Hwami’s compositions are not just limited to the frames of their canvases but is imbued directly into the very act of painting; as she explains ‘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.’ii This desire for self-realisation through her craft – giving herself an essential presence in the context of a global world – bears close association with the work of Michael Armitage and his intellectual mastication. Through their paintings, they seek to connect with their cultural heritage and explore their own personal histories, while also engaging with larger social and political issues facing Africa today.



    Michael Armitage, The Paradise Edict, 2019
    Joyner/Giuffrida Collection. Photo: Theo Christelis. © the artist


    Collector’s Digest

    • Hwami’s work is set to be included in the Tate Britain’s major rehang, to be revealed in May 2023

    • At 26 years old, Hwami became the youngest artist to ever show at the Venice Biennale in 2019

    • She has had solo exhibitions at: Kunsthaus Pasquart, Biel, Switzerland; Victoria Miro, London; Gasworks, London, and Tyburn Gallery, London.

    • Hwami has also enjoyed group exhibitions at: 2018, 2019 & 2022 Venice Biennale; Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town; Stephen Friedman Gallery, London; Stephen Friedman Gallery, London; and Musée d'Art Moderne, Paris.

    • Her work is included in notable public collections such as: Fondation Blachère, Apt, France; Government Art Collection, London; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Kadist Foundation, Paris; Norval Foundation, Cape Town; Perez Art Museum, Miami; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford; and Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town.



    i Camila McHugh, ‘Kudzanai-Violet Hwami Wants the Choice to Reveal Herself—or Not’, Cultured Magazine, 9 August 2022, online

    ii Michael Armitage, ‘Michael Armitage and Kudzanai-Violet Hwami on Painting’, Ocula Magazine, 15 November 2019, online

    • Provenance

      Tyburn Gallery, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner


Let Us Now Praise the Children (Zwizwai Family)

silkscreen, acrylic and oil on canvas
150 x 150 cm. (59 x 59 in.)
Executed in 2017.

Full Cataloguing

HK$600,000 - 800,000 

Sold for HK$762,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 30 March 2023