Billie Zangewa
(Blantyre, Malawi, 1973)

The Wild Side, 2013

Silk tapestry
138 × 105 cm
[Photo: Ela Bialkowska, OKNO Studio, © ADAGP, Paris. Courtesy Pascale Marthine Tayou and GALLERIA CONTINUA, by SIAE 2021]

Billie Zangewa explores concepts as identity and femininity as well as sociopolitics around gender, for instance, the different roles that women play in society, including motherhood and the impact that it has individually and collectively.

The Wild Side (2013) is part of a work series depicting portraits and cityscapes. When the artist started working with textiles she made botanical scenes and animals from Botswana, but then she transitioned to cityscapes focusing on her experience as a woman in the city of Johannesburg and her personal relationships. In these works she reflects on her everyday life in Johannesburg and its relative mundanity, as well as her own identity as a woman of color by using swatches of silk. Once she got home, the artist had a look at all the samples together and they made her think about the glass panels of the buildings in Johannesburg’s Central Business District. So, she assembled them to make her first cityscapes. At a certain point her work began to interrogate experiences she’d had as a woman in the urban setting.

Billie Zangewa lives and works in Johannesburg. Solo exhibitions of her work have been organized by Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, Charlotte (2022); Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco (2021); Lehmann Maupin, London (2021); Lehmann Maupin, Seoul (2021), among others. Zangewa’s work is in several public and private collections including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg; Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Norval Foundation, Cape Town; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Amsterdam; Tate Modern, London.