Billie Zangewa
Embroidery for Constructing Collective Identity

Koyo Kouoh
Zangewa_midnigh taura
Billie Zangewa Midnight Aura, 2012.
Photo : © Billie Zangewa, courtesy of AFRONOVA GALLERY, Johannesburg

Billie Zangewa, born in Malawi, studied graphics and printmaking at Rhodes University. The textured printing paper awakened her interest in the materiality of surfaces, and when she moved to Johannesburg she found her muse: the city. She uses self-referentiality as a conceptual framework within which to epitomize the contemporary African woman and contribute to her redefinition in societies in which patriarchy and reactionary views continue to work against the liberation of women. Although her tapestries are autobiographical, she finds recourse in the shaping of a collective identity, as in Midnight Aura and Angelina Rising — titles that reference the names given to wax prints by the Dutch fabric company Vlisco. The African woman depicted in Zangewa’s tapestries, who has “experienced modernity” in the words of Yinka Shonibare MBE, has had to reclaim herself: passive and subjected to the desires of men, she has become the agent of seduction performed as a conscious and voluntary act.

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This article also appears in the issue 90 - Feminisms

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