In her paintings, artist Portia Zvavahera (b. 1985) 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. These deeply personal visions are realized through layers of vibrant color and ornate, veil-like patterns that the artist builds up into palimpsestic surfaces through a combination of expressive brushwork and elaborate printmaking techniques. Zvavahera’s compositions draw on particular traditions of figuration in past and present Zimbabwe, first expressed in the work of Thomas Mukarobgwa in the 1960s, while also pointing to postwar artistic practices that probe the nature of the human condition.
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 fine arts from Harare Polytechnic in 2006.
Ndakaoneswa murima, the artist’s first solo presentation in New York and her second with the gallery, was on view at David Zwirner, New York in 2021. Zvavahera’s first exhibition, Ndakavata pasi ndikamutswa nekuti anonditsigira, was at the gallery’s London location in 2020.
The artist has presented several solo exhibitions with Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg (2014–2020), and a solo exhibition with Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles (2017). The National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare, presented her solo exhibition Under My Skin in 2010, and in 2020, the Institute of Contemporary Art Indian Ocean, Port Louis, Mauritius, held her solo exhibition Walk of Life. She was invited to show her work as part of the Zimbabwean Pavilion exhibition Dudziro: Interrogating the Visions of Religious Beliefs at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013. In 2022, her work was included in the 59th Venice Biennale.
Zvavahera’s work is held in the collections of the Johannesburg Art Gallery; Minneapolis Institute of Art; National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare; Pérez Art Museum Miami; Tate, London; University of Chicago Booth School of Business; and the Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.