Kresiah Mukwazhi: Kirawa

A Kresiah Mukwazhi artwork haning in a gallery, the artwork has multi-coloured shapes on a yellow background. It is made of fabric.
  • Kresiah Mukwazhi, mukadzi muka uti dzi! II (woman, rise up and stand firm! II), 2022, acrylic on textile. Courtesy the artist and Jan Kaps, Cologne. Photo: Simon Vogel

Kresiah Mukwazhi creates vibrant textile-collages, video, performance and installations informed by her observations of gender-based violence, exploitation and abuse in her native Zimbabwe. By bringing together the worlds of visual activism and spirituality, she explores the different conditions of the female body; from being a site of trauma, to one of healing and resistance. Drawing on her long-term engagement with female sex workers in the suburbs of Harare, she takes inspiration from the resilience and forms of self-organisation present within these communities.

Mukwazhi describes Kirawa as ‘a place of sacred resistance, where I expose and push back against colonisation and socio-political issues forcing women into precarious labour, aiming at reclaiming the sacred power that women are destined to have.’

In her large-scale textile assemblages, different fabrics are glued and sewn together, then painted with acrylic and fabric dyes. The materials she uses combine to recall the seedier bars and nightclubs of Harare. Often acquired at flea markets and second-hand stores, their surfaces are marked with tears and stains, burns and frays: intimate inscriptions of the lives of the women who used them.

The video it (the cock) hit itself and it cried (2023) presents the artist partially disguised in a bright blue wig, mask and sunglasses. By using costume she removes herself from immediate view, whilst mocking how colonial conventions, such as the use of Western judges’ wigs, continue to persist.

In Zimbabwe, a ‘kirawa’ is a sacred shrine and place of healing. Here, Mukwazhi has created her own version in the installation the red cloth of sacred resistance (2023). In the same way that spirit mediums at a ‘kirawa’ are able heal through ritual, Mukwazhi seeks restitution for the women she has encountered through her art.

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

A video projected in a dark room
a painting of two sex workers showing off their underwear on orange fabric on a white wall
an installation shot of a painting on purple fabric on a white wall. to the left of the painting is an archway which the rest of a gallery with an installation of projected video amongst trees visible
an installation shot of two paintings on fabric in a gallery
an installation of trees, video and flags in a gallery
a painting of a naked body on green fabric on a white wall. in the foreground are two trees with fabric suspended between them
a gallery with paintings on fabric on the wall

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