In the first episode of a new series of A brush with..., Billie Zangewa talks to Ben Luke about the art, literature, music and film that have influenced her and inspire her today, and the cultural experiences that have shaped her life and work.
Born in 1973 in Blantyre, Malawi, Zangewa grew up in Botswana and then studied at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa, in the 1990s. She now lives and works in Johannesburg.
Zangewa is best known for her hand-stitched images, often featuring herself, using raw silk, in highly coloured, intricate compositions, and hopes to challenge existing representations of Black women. Her imagery is both highly personal and universal—in recent years, particularly since the birth of her son, Mika, she has focused increasingly on depictions of herself at home, as a woman and a mother in domestic space, engaging in humdrum activities. By training her eye on the mundane moments of daily existence, she says she wants to explore the overlooked aspects of women’s lives—she refers to this as “daily feminism”.
In this episode, Zangewa discusses her use of silk and how she began working with it out of necessity rather than by design. She recalls her early love of Vincent van Gogh and her response to the films of Jane Campion. She reflects on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on her life and practice, and how she still works at her kitchen table, even despite the fact she has a dedicated studio.
• A brush with… series 7 runs from 17 November-15 December 2021, with episodes released on Wednesdays. You can download and subscribe to the podcast here. This episode is sponsored by Bloomberg Connects.
• Billie Zangewa: Running Water, Lehmann Maupin London, until 8 January 2022; Flesh and Blood, Lehmann Maupin Seoul, from 18 November-15 January 2022; Thread for a Web Begun, Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, until 27 February.