Portia Zvavahera: Ndakaoneswa murima | David Zwirner
A detail from a work by Portia Zvavahera, Title to be confirmed , 2021.

Portia Zvavahera

Ndakaoneswa murima

David Zwirner is pleased to present Ndakaoneswa murima, an exhibition of new work by Zimbabwean artist Portia Zvavahera at the gallery’s West 19th Street location in New York. The title translates from Shona to English as “I was made to see the dark side.” This will be Zvavahera’s first solo presentation in New York and her second exhibition with David Zwirner, and the first since the gallery announced representation of the artist earlier this year.

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Image: Portia Zvavahera, Ndirikukuona (I can see you), 2021(detail). © Portia Zvavahera. Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner.

Dates
November 4December 18, 2021

“Zvavahera’s vast canvases contain a world of dreamscapes heavy with burdens of our futures and unresolved pasts. The women depicted in her paintings, however, are not always in despair. Often they appear to be tenderly holding spaces for each other; there is no pain without comfort.”

—Gabi Ngcobo, curator

A photo of Portia Zvavahera in her studio, Harare, Zimbabwe, in 2021.

Portia Zvavahera in her studio, Harare, Zimbabwe, 2021. Photo by Gideon Gomo

Portia Zvavahera in her studio, Harare, Zimbabwe, 2021. Photo by Gideon Gomo

In these new works, Zvavahera continues to develop her subject matter by joining her carefully charted dream worlds with her daily experience and rituals. The paintings  feature new motifs and narratives, and are populated by symbolic creatures that become powerful conduits for interpreting her spiritual visions. This body of work also builds upon her interest in combining vibrant color with varied painting and printmaking techniques to produce intricate designs and delicate, lacelike patterns across her vast canvases.

An oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen artwork by Portia Zvavahera, titled vandakaoneswa (What I was made to see), dated 2021.

Portia Zvavahera

Zvandakaoneswa (What I was made to see), 2021
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen
82 1/2 x 117 1/4 inches (209.6 x 297.8 cm)
Framed: 82 7/8 x 118 5/8 inches (210.5 x 301.3 cm)

The central painting in the show—one of Zvavahera’s largest to date—Ndakaoneswa murima, Zvandakaoneswa (What I was made to see), elucidates a recurring dream for which the artist sought a resolution in painting. Sitting in a pool of water—in a yellow-and-white scalloped pattern reminiscent of coral reefs—a mysterious womanly apparition holds a ceramic pot, surrounded by brooding figures and owl-like forms in a gloomy cave. The owls and other beasts reappear in various guises throughout other works, following the artist and members of her family, while angelic messengers deliver them to safety.

“Translation remains a grounding feature of [Zvavahera’s] work, and it takes precedence, not only in the construction of her subject matter, but also in its aesthetics.”

—Athi Mongezeleli Joja, Artforum, 2019

An installation view of an exhibition titled Portia Zvavahera Ndakaoneswa murima at David Zwirner, New York, in 2021.

Installation view, Portia Zvavahera: Ndakaoneswa murima, David Zwirner, New York, 2021

Installation view, Portia Zvavahera: Ndakaoneswa murima, David Zwirner, New York, 2021

Ndirikuda kubuda translates from Shona to English as “I want to come out.” Here, the artist depicts herself in the center of the work, her head facing south, as if she were dead. Amid coats of richly applied color and layered batik designs, Zvavahera delineates these specters in oil stick and fine brushwork. The figure is encircled by a scalloped pattern that gently undulates across the surface; the cocoon represents an angel that comes to save her from plummeting into darkness and the spirit of death.

An oil based printing ink and oil bar on canvas artwork by Portia Zvavahera, titled Ndirikuda kubuda (I want to come out), dated 2021.

Portia Zvavahera

Ndirikuda kubuda (I want to come out), 2021
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on canvas
78 x 63 1/2 inches (198.1 x 161.3 cm)
Framed: 81 7/8 x 71 1/8 inches (208 x 180.7 cm)
An oil based printing ink and oil bar on canvas artwork by Portia Zvavahera, titled Woman with owls, dated 2021.

Portia Zvavahera

Woman with owls, 2021
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on canvas
82 1/2 x 68 1/4 inches (209.6 x 173.4 cm)
Framed: 84 1/8 x 69 3/4 inches (213.7 x 177.2 cm)

“Growing up I started following my dreams.... Now whenever I dream I want to know what it means.... When I start putting them into a painting, they start to reveal themselves.”

—Portia Zvavahera

An oil based printing ink and oil bar on canvas artwork by Portia Zvavahera, titled Prayer amid a battle, dated 2021.

Portia Zvavahera

Prayer amid a battle, 2021
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on canvas
82 x 75 3/4 inches (208.3 x 192.4 cm)
Framed: 83 5/8 x 77 1/4 inches (212.4 x 196.2 cm)

In Prayer amid a battle, Zvavahera depicts herself praying in front of a looming bull-like creature as the central figure with flowing purple hair and extended yellow arms. The bull is a recurring spirit that the artist has depicted in other works who represents complex situations that she is experiencing in her daily life.

A photo of Portia Zvavahera in her studio, Harare, Zimbabwe, in 2021.

Portia Zvavahera in her studio, Harare, Zimbabwe, 2021. Photo by Gideon Gomo

Portia Zvavahera in her studio, Harare, Zimbabwe, 2021. Photo by Gideon Gomo

“When I’ve put all the feeling, all the colours, all the designs needed into it. Especially when I’ve put all the emotions in it, that’s when I say the painting is finished.”

—Portia Zvavahera

An oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen artwork by Portia Zvavahera, titled Crying belly, dated 2021.

Portia Zvavahera

Crying belly, 2021
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen
72 1/8 x 79 7/8 inches (183.2 x 202.9 cm)
Framed: 73 3/4 x 81 3/8 inches (187.3 x 206.7 cm)

In Crying belly (2021), the artist layers various patterns to delineate contrasting forms and figures. The symbolism the artist ascribes to color is contextual; in these works, white symbolizes victory. As the looming blue hand of an enigmatic woman reaches for the head of the figure in the middle, a white leg-like form extends outward at the bottom of the composition, as if ready to escape. 

An oil based printing ink and oil bar on canvas artwork by Portia Zvavahera, titled Ndibuditsei (Take me out), dated 2021.

Portia Zvavahera

Ndibuditsei (Take me out), 2021
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on canva
86 5/8 x 75 5/8 inches (220 x 192 cm)
Framed: 79 1/2 x 64 7/8 inches (201.9 x 164.8 cm)

Ndibuditsei (Take me out) features Zvavahera as the central upside-down figure in the composition. The red-haired figure on the left and the figure on the right are two characters from another dream in which the artist's father and mother tried to rescue her. The artist's family members often appear in her visions to rescue her from the spirit of death, to take her away from the enveloping darkness.

An installation view of an exhibition titled Portia Zvavahera Ndakaoneswa murima at David Zwirner, New York, in 2021.

Installation view, Portia Zvavahera: Ndakaoneswa murima, David Zwirner, New York, 2021

Installation view, Portia Zvavahera: Ndakaoneswa murima, David Zwirner, New York, 2021

Ndirikukuona (I can see you) depicts a group of owl-like creatures who form a kind of central mass in the composition. Across her oeuvre, these animal motifs represent spirits who attempt to deliver hidden messages to the artist while she sleeps.

An oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen artwork by Portia Zvavahera, titled Ndirikukuona (I can see you), dated 2021.

Portia Zvavahera

Ndirikukuona (I can see you), 2021
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen
72 1/8 x 73 7/8 inches (183.2 x 187.6 cm)
Framed: 86 7/8 x 75 3/8 inches (220.7 x 191.5 cm)
An oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen artwork by Portia Zvavahera, titled Whose hand?, dated 2021.

Portia Zvavahera

Whose hand?, 2021
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen
77 7/8 x 73 1/2 inches (197.8 x 186.7 cm)
Framed: 79 1/4 x 74 7/8 inches (201.3 x 190.2 cm)

In Whose hand?, the titular hand is rendered in a deep scarlet, extending as a red line around the patterned mass at the center of the composition from which a group of figures emerges. A blue-gray foot-like form also appears at bottom right. The dotted batik design that defines the mass takes its inspiration from the undulating patterns found in coral reefs, and here symbolizes water. The dappled purple background mimics a night sky. The figures in the water represent a family who attempt to run from a mysterious woman whose hand hovers above them. Soon after having the dream depicted in this painting, Zvavahera experienced illness from which she eventually recovered.

“Sumptuous, with a fine sense for balancing gesture and detail, [Zvavahera’s] paintings are characterized by various descriptions of hopeful containment and ambiguous embrace.”

—Sean O’Toole, Frieze

An oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen artwork by Portia Zvavahera, titled Zvakanditsika (It walked on me), dated 2021.

Portia Zvavahera

Zvakanditsika (It walked on me), 2021
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen
79 3/4 x 74 3/8 inches (202.6 x 188.9 cm)
Framed: 81 1/4 x 75 7/8 inches (206.4 x 192.7 cm)

“I love to see color, and different combinations of color. Even on a personal level, color helps me express myself more than anything else.... When I go into my garden, what I take from there and bring into the painting is color and design. This is what I look for in artworks.”

—Portia Zvavahera

An oil based printing ink and oil bar on canvas artwork by Portia Zvavahera, titled Climbing up, dated 2021.

Portia Zvavahera

Climbing up, 2021
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on canvas
Image: 77 1/2 x 66 3/8 inches (196.9 x 168.6 cm)
Framed: 79 x 67 7/8 inches (200.7 x 172.4 cm)

One of Zvavahera’s largest paintings to date, Zvandaona depicts a recurring group of owl-like creatures and a womanly apparition that have appeared in the artist's dreams. At the top, the owls morph into a large mass with multiple heads, threatening to fully envelop a faintly outlined woman in the center. Covered in a dynamic starburst design, she sits cross-legged as figures on each of her side emerge as wings—symbolizing her desire to fly away from the cave and its dangers.

An oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen artwork by Portia Zvavahera, titled Zvandaona, dated 2021.

Portia Zvavahera

Zvandaona, 2021
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen
80 5/8 x 131 inches (204.8 x 332.7 cm)
Framed: 82 3/8 x 132 3/4 inches (209.2 x 337.2 cm)
An installation view of an exhibition titled Portia Zvavahera Ndakaoneswa murima at David Zwirner, New York, in 2021.

Installation view, Portia Zvavahera: Ndakaoneswa murima, David Zwirner, New York, 2021

Installation view, Portia Zvavahera: Ndakaoneswa murima, David Zwirner, New York, 2021

Inquire about Works by Portia Zvavahera

An oil based printing ink and oil bar on canvas artwork by Portia Zvavahera, titled Ndirikuda kubuda (I want to come out), dated 2021.

Portia Zvavahera

Ndirikuda kubuda (I want to come out), 2021
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on canvas
78 x 63 1/2 inches (198.1 x 161.3 cm)
Framed: 81 7/8 x 71 1/8 inches (208 x 180.7 cm)
An oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen artwork by Portia Zvavahera, titled Crying belly, dated 2021.

Portia Zvavahera

Crying belly, 2021
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen
72 1/8 x 79 7/8 inches (183.2 x 202.9 cm)
Framed: 73 3/4 x 81 3/8 inches (187.3 x 206.7 cm)
An oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen artwork by Portia Zvavahera, titled Ndirikukuona (I can see you), dated 2021.

Portia Zvavahera

Ndirikukuona (I can see you), 2021
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen
72 1/8 x 73 7/8 inches (183.2 x 187.6 cm)
Framed: 86 7/8 x 75 3/8 inches (220.7 x 191.5 cm)
An oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen artwork by Portia Zvavahera, titled Zvakanditsika (It walked on me), dated 2021.

Portia Zvavahera

Zvakanditsika (It walked on me), 2021
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen
79 3/4 x 74 3/8 inches (202.6 x 188.9 cm)
Framed: 81 1/4 x 75 7/8 inches (206.4 x 192.7 cm)
An oil based printing ink and oil bar on canvas artwork by Portia Zvavahera, titled Prayer amid a battle, dated 2021.

Portia Zvavahera

Prayer amid a battle, 2021
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on canvas
82 x 75 3/4 inches (208.3 x 192.4 cm)
Framed: 83 5/8 x 77 1/4 inches (212.4 x 196.2 cm)
An oil based printing ink and oil bar on canvas artwork by Portia Zvavahera, titled Ndibuditsei (Take me out), dated 2021.

Portia Zvavahera

Ndibuditsei (Take me out), 2021
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on canva
86 5/8 x 75 5/8 inches (220 x 192 cm)
Framed: 79 1/2 x 64 7/8 inches (201.9 x 164.8 cm)
An oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen artwork by Portia Zvavahera, titled Zvandaona, dated 2021.

Portia Zvavahera

Zvandaona, 2021
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen
80 5/8 x 131 inches (204.8 x 332.7 cm)
Framed: 82 3/8 x 132 3/4 inches (209.2 x 337.2 cm)
An oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen artwork by Portia Zvavahera, titled Whose hand?, dated 2021.

Portia Zvavahera

Whose hand?, 2021
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen
77 7/8 x 73 1/2 inches (197.8 x 186.7 cm)
Framed: 79 1/4 x 74 7/8 inches (201.3 x 190.2 cm)
An oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen artwork by Portia Zvavahera, titled vandakaoneswa (What I was made to see), dated 2021.

Portia Zvavahera

Zvandakaoneswa (What I was made to see), 2021
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on linen
82 1/2 x 117 1/4 inches (209.6 x 297.8 cm)
Framed: 82 7/8 x 118 5/8 inches (210.5 x 301.3 cm)
An oil based printing ink and oil bar on canvas artwork by Portia Zvavahera, titled Woman with owls, dated 2021.

Portia Zvavahera

Woman with owls, 2021
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on canvas
82 1/2 x 68 1/4 inches (209.6 x 173.4 cm)
Framed: 84 1/8 x 69 3/4 inches (213.7 x 177.2 cm)
An oil based printing ink and oil bar on canvas artwork by Portia Zvavahera, titled Climbing up, dated 2021.

Portia Zvavahera

Climbing up, 2021
Oil based printing ink and oil bar on canvas
Image: 77 1/2 x 66 3/8 inches (196.9 x 168.6 cm)
Framed: 79 x 67 7/8 inches (200.7 x 172.4 cm)

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          Ndakaoneswa murima

          Portia Zvavahera

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