Portia Zvavahera

Text by Meredith A. Brown. Interview with the artist by Allie Biswas  

Expressive and rich paintings by the Zimbabwean artist Portia Zvavahera—made during a time of intense solitude and collective struggle across the globe.
In her paintings, Zvavahera gives form to emotions that manifest from other realms and dimensions beyond the domains of everyday life and thought. Her vivid imagery is rooted in the cornerstones of our earthly existence—life and death, pain and pleasure, isolation and connection, and love and loss. 
Zvavahera draws from a powerful visual vocabulary comprising women, her family, and shape-shifting animals, in scenes both metaphorical and fantastical. In several paintings, she makes use of intricate patterns taken from her own floral or classical Zimbabwean designs. Her particular process of alternating painting and printing results in images that communicate complex emotions in a play of tension and release. The result is a deeply personal body of work that probes the nature of the human condition. As Zvavahera states, “It is me in the paintings.… I can only speak about myself.”
In addition to gorgeous reproductions of twenty-four paintings, including up-close details and installation views, this catalogue also features a new essay by the curator Meredith Brown and an interview with the artist by the writer Allie Biswas. This catalogue surveys work made since 2017.



Publisher: David Zwirner Books

Artists: Portia Zvavahera

Contributors: Allie Biswas, Meredith Brown

Designer: Beverly Joel

Printer: VeronaLibri, Verona

Publication Date: 2023

Binding: Hardcover

Dimensions: 9.5 × 11 in | 24.1 × 27.9 cm

Pages: 112

Reproductions: 24 illustrations

ISBN: 9781644230718

Retail: $65 | $85 CAN | £50

Status: Available

Portia Zvavahera

Portia Zvavahera was born in 1985 in Harare, Zimbabwe, where she currently lives and works. She studied at the BAT Visual Arts Studio, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, from 2003 to 2005. She then received a diploma in visual arts from Harare Polytechnic in 2006.

Allie Biswas

Allie Biswas is a writer and editor based in London. In 2021, she coedited The Soul of a Nation Reader: Writings by and about Black American Artists, 1960–1980, a compendium of rarely seen historical texts that address the role of art during the civil rights movement. She has published interviews with artists including Theaster Gates, Rashid Johnson, Julie Mehretu, Meleko Mokgosi, Zanele Muholi, Adam Pendleton, and Wolfgang Tillmans. Her essays have appeared in books on Serge Alain Nitegeka, Reginald Sylvester II and Woody De Othello, amongst other artists. Most recently, she has contributed texts to Portia Zvavahera (David Zwirner Books, 2023), Hiroshi Sugimoto: Time Machine, Strange Clay: Ceramics in Contemporary Art, and Frank Bowling: Sculpture. She is currently editing a monograph about the artist Hew Locke.


Meredith Brown

Meredith A. Brown serves as the director of museum affairs and chief curator at Planting Fields Foundation in Oyster Bay, New York, where she oversees all collection and exhibition initiatives. Her research focuses on the histories of gender and social activism as they intersect with art in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and has been supported by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Stanford University. Prior to joining Planting Fields, she worked as a senior research associate in modern and contemporary art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Brown earned her MA and PhD in art history from The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, and holds a BA in art and art history from Stanford University.