Inspired by the global #metoo movement, Mukwazhi uses her art to shed light on the common—and yet less publicised—occurrences of sexual assault in her home country and the rest of Southern Africa. In Mambokadzi II (2018)—which means ‘Queen’—an abstracted, biomorphic form is suspended from the ceiling. Wrapped in women’s undergarments, the artist makes use of the material’s associative power to reference feelings of objectification, entrapment, and disembodiment. Here, the metaphor of an insect caught in a spider’s web comes to mind. Simultaneously, one might imagine the form to be in the process of becoming, like a butterfly from a cocoon. Either way, the transformation of these materials into symbols of resistance and struggle are characteristic of Mukwazhi’s activist approach to art.
Within the Five Bhobh – Painting at the End of an Era exhibition, Mukwazhi’s work is located in a section themed, Shemurenga. This is a term that is drawn from Shereen Essof’s book titled, Shemurenga: The Zimbabwe Women’s Movement 1995 – 2000. It is a play on the term Chimurenga, which means revolution, war, struggle or resistance. Speaking out about inequality in a patriarchal and unyielding society is a constant battle. In this space, racial politics, the objectification of women, the understated narratives of those involved in sex work and the realities of domestic abuse take centre stage.
Mukwazhi is among the many women artists who are pushing back against archaic and oppressive norms and conventional approaches to artistic practice in Zimbabwe. Shemurenga is an acknowledgement of the constant struggle for space and voice.