Spotlight: Prudence Chimutuwah Is Narrating The Rise of the 21st-Century Woman
We spoke with the Zimbabwean contemporary artist on adding color to the rise of female empowerment and commanding attention.
In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists, and more who are producing vibrant, original work.
In our latest piece, we spotlight Zimbabwean painter and collage artist Prudence Chimutuwah. The mixed media art and collage enthusiast centers her creativity around the empowerment of African and Black women as we continue to make strides toward true freedom. Navigating a patriarchal system and ultimately strengthening their capacity to grant resilience and joy to the world around them, Chimutuwah's artistic depictions of the female form offer a hopeful glimpse into a bright, woman-centric future. In her early years, the artist gained inspiration from prominent and fellow Zimbabwean female sculptors Seminar Mpofu and Colleen Madamombe, choosing to major in painting and sculpture at the National Gallery Visual Arts School in Harare as a result. Chimutuwah's career has taken her to exhibitions in the United Arab Emirates, France, Nigeria, South Africa, and more, winning numerous awards along the way, including from the Zimbabwean National Merit Awards (NAMA) and The Delta Gallery Foundation of Art and Humanities. In 2019, Chimutuwah sold out an entire collection to one sole collector, on her opening night. Since then, the collagist continues to highlight and honor the women around her and the ways in which they choose to exist in the world.
We spoke with Chimutuwah about demanding attention, engaging your audience, and believing in a future worth fighting for.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Can you tell us about the project that first inspired you to create?
The first project that inspired me to create was an exhibition called 'Purple Rhythm' by a Zimbabwean artist named Calvin Chimutuwah -- my husband. It included his paintings and some of my mixed media artworks, and it was about celebrating the streets and people of Harare. It sold out! Which pushed me into exploring my own work further.
What are the central themes in your work?
My work is about the emergence of the 21st-century woman as she steps out, and up to take charge in spaces seemingly dominated by males. My body of work exists to narrate, describe and inform the audience about the evolving world of women, and how we exist in patriarchal societies.
Where do you seek inspiration and how does it find you?
I’m informed and inspired by the everyday lives of women; their economic aspirations, desire for spirituality, need for attention, and energy for hustling. Witnessing all of this around me inspires me to tell their stories through my work.
What do you believe sets African artists apart from the rest of the world?
I believe that African artists mainly draw their inspiration and narratives from their own experiences and stories which then gives their work more depth. It's a form of storytelling.
Can you talk about your use of colors and accessories?
I am fascinated with bright colors. I use neon pigments a lot as they command a presence and compel one to look. Colorful African textiles dominate my women’s attire, as it's where I feel most at home. I paint my subjects in portraiture, fully figured and naturally expressing themselves in engaging looks and poses. I focus my art on the joy of being an African woman.
What’s something you wish someone told you at the beginning of your journey?
I wish I had a better understanding of the fact that being a creative is a full-time job that requires a lot of work and focus.