Kresiah Mukwazhi: Kirawa

27 May-3 Sep 2023
PV 26 May 2023, 6.30-9pm

Nottingham Contemporary
Nottingham NG1 2GB


Nottingham Contemporary presents the first institutional solo exhibition by the Zimbabwean artist, Kresiah Mukwazhi (b.1992, Harare).

Kresiah Mukwazhi’s work is informed by her observations of gender-based violence, exploitation and abuse in her native Zimbabwe. Within this structurally patriarchal society, Mukwazhi has developed a long-term engagement with female sex workers in the suburbs of Harare over many years. She is intimately invested in their struggles, seeking not only to expose the systemic violence that forces so many of them into precarious labour, but also to reclaim the integrity that has been wrested from them. Using her bold and powerful work as a form of visual activism, Mukwazhi draws vitality from women’s resilience and the possibility of empowerment and self-organisation. As curator Fadzai Muchemwa has described, Mukwazhi presents ‘a theatre of women who are more than physical barometers of the toxicity of a system… These are women who stand for and take care of each other.’

Mukwazhi works fluidly across a variety of media, including mixed media collage, sculptural installation, performance and video. The materials she uses recall the seedier bars and nightclubs of Harare: slinky synthetic fabrics, animal print, cheap lingerie, sequins and neon wigs all form part of her striking visual vocabulary. Often acquired at flea markets and second-hand stores, their surfaces are inscribed with the intimate lives of the women who used them. Tears and stains, burns and frays, can be glimpsed in her intricate textile collages, in which different fabrics are glued and sewn together, and painted with acrylic and fabric dyes.

For Kirawa, Mukwazhi is producing an entirely new body of commissioned work. These new works speak to the loss of the matriarchal system in African societies, which the artist sees as a product of the Christian indoctrination of Zimbabwe that began with the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century. She describes Kirawa as ‘a place of sacred resistance, where I expose and push back against this colonisation and socio-political issues forcing women into precarious labour, aiming at reclaiming the sacred power that women are destined to have. The female body, therefore, becomes a site of resistance and a site to question power relations.’

Kresiah Mukwazhi: Kirawa is a collaboration between Nottingham Contemporary and Secession, Vienna, where it will be presented from 17 February to 16 April 2023.

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Kresiah Mukwazhi: Kirawa press release