Proving that Africa is still the hot continent, Bonhams next Modern and Contemporary African Art sale in London on 17 March will showcase a host of exciting young talent, alongside established big names. One of the highlights is Adam and Steve joined by the knee, a study, produced by the 27-year-old Zimbabwean artist, Kudzanai-Violet Hwami. The work has an estimate of £30,000 – £50,000.
Born in 1993, Hwami has already received more acclaim in her short career than many artists achieve in a lifetime – and her star is still on the rise. Selected to represent Zimbabwe at the Venice Biennale in 2019, aged only 26, Hwami has already enjoyed successful solo exhibitions at the Tyburn Gallery and Gasworks in London and is represented up by Victoria Miro. Later this year, she will showcase her works at a group exhibition at the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
Helene Love-Allotey, specialist in Modern and Contemporary African Art at Bonhams, commented: “Hwami is one of the most exciting young artists around right now. Her work asks the viewer to consider weighty topics – such as identity, sexuality, and desire – but her handling is witty and fresh, as is evidenced by the title of the work, Adam and Steve joined by the knee, a study. When asked what precipitated her interest in art, Hwami has often credited her love of cartoons, and in paricular, Manga. As a child, she would sketch her favourite characters, and the influence of these animations is evident in the dynamism of her compositions. Although monumental in size, the work retains a delicate intimacy.”
Hwami’s work starts with a collage of images and photographs, around which she constructs a painted narrative. She says that this approach was partly influenced by the creative sharing of images on social media sites such as Tumblr: “I spent a lot of time on the internet as a pre-teen and, in that socially awkward stage of my life, I found it more comfortable to escape and exist in cyberspace. I started exploring sexuality and gender identity. I was obsessed with the idea of physically living in a different body. All my frustration and confusion was expressed through studying the queer body.”
Other highlights of the sale include:
- Portia Zvavahera (Zimbabwean, born 1985) Complete, 2014. Estimate: £60,000 – 90,000. Zvavahera has noted the fluidity and flatness afforded by using oil-based inks, allowing her to build richly layered surfaces. She draws upon her deeply held sense of spirituality and accompanying rituals of belief to embody the predominantly female figures. Moving beyond literal autobiography and self-portraiture, the figures depicted become archetypal expressions of feminine experiences of faith and motherhood.
- Zanele Muholi (South African, born 1972), Isililo XX unframed. Estimate: £4,000 – 6,000. Zanele Muholi is a non-binary artist whose work challenges ideas of both race and sexuality. In 2020 a major exhibition of Muholi’s work opened at the Tate Modern in London. A print by Zanele Muholi “Sasa, Bleecker” sold for £6,800 at Bonhams in March 2020, an unheard-of price for a photograph by a contemporary South African artist.
- William Joseph Kentridge (South African, born 1955), Orange head. Estimate: £25,000-35,000. Beginning in 1992, Kentridge produced a series of monumental drypoint prints of a head, with hand-painting and torn shards created from varying templates, allowing for incarnations in orange (editioned 1993), blue (editioned 1993-8) and green (1992), though the latter were never editioned. Insight, or the lack thereof, is a central theme in Kentridge’s work. The subject’s upwardly tilting chin exposes the carotid artery in his extended neck in what can be read as a gesture of either submission or strength: it is unclear whether his eyes are closed in defiance, dreaming, or death.
- Ndary Lo (Senegalese, born 1961), Taaru à talons, 2013. Estimate: £7,000 – 10,000. The image of a striding figure is a recurring theme of Ndary Lo’s work. The artist created a series of these “hommes qui marche”, figures he referred to affectionately as “nit”, a Wolof word meaning “person” or “character”. The title of this work translates as ‘Beauty in heels’. Lo’s characteristic slender and elongated figures have often provoked comparisons to Alberto Giacometti – who was himself influenced by African sculptural traditions. Lo’s aesthetic has been considered to be a conscious cultural re-appropriation.
Leading the sale will be Irma Stern’s Arab with Dagger (within original Zanzibar frame), which has an estimate of £700,000-1,000,000. More information can be found here