Exhibited for the first time in Switzerland, Billie Zangewa questions gender stereotypes and racial prejudices through art that uses everyday life as a pretext for political reflection on identity. The Malawian artist’s colourful, cut and sewn fabric “paintings” are a tribute to personal experience, intimacy, femininity and black consciousness. Her singular practice combines the graphic side of the print, the pictorial work of colour and the volumes of the sculpture. The artist builds a committed work whose political dimension, in particular in favour of women, marginalized and reduced to silence, is simply suggested. By exposing the private and intimate space as represented in Mother and Child (2015), she questions the representation, role and condition of women not only in South African society, but also more globally. Driven by a desire to generate positive imagery of black beauty, works such as The Future Waits For No One (2011) and Sweet Dreams (2010) convey the image of a triumphant, strong, determined woman, free of her body and choices, most of which are self-portraits. Working mainly with brightly coloured silk scraps, the artist is inspired by photographs to create her compositions. She begins by drawing patterns on old newspapers, then thinks about the shades of colour and the reflections that different layers can produce. The artist then cuts out pieces of different fabrics and pins them in place before attaching them by hand, never by machine. Framed or pinned, as if floating on the wall, her works sometimes have surprising cuts, creating a kind of formal transgression that represents the strongest mark of violence in her work.
Born in 1973 in Malawi, Billie Zangewa grew up in Zimbabwe and Botswana. She discovered the artistic potential of textiles in her mother’s sewing workshops, which gave her a passion for fabrics and embroidery. After studying art and printmaking at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa, she worked in fashion and advertising before devoting herself entirely to her artistic practice. Working between London and Johannesburg, Billie Zangewa has been exhibiting in Botswana and South Africa since 1997. Her work has been shown internationally for the past 15 years. In 2021, she will participate in the exhibition The Power of My Hands at the Musée d’Art moderne de Paris. In autumn 2021, she will have her first solo exhibition at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, USA.
This exhibition was realized in close collaboration with the Lehmann Maupin Gallery (New York) and thanks to the generosity of private collectors.