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Where did you grow up?

I was born in Harare, Zimbabwe. Then I moved to England when I was 5 years old.


How did you develop your style in mixed media portraiture?

It started in 2014 when my grandfather passed away. I wanted to create a piece to commemorate his death. Initially, I thought to do some etching, and use the guidelines from my drawings as a stencil. I traced over the lines and then painted the details in the faces. For some reason it felt right to leave it as it was. 


Your sister appears to be a reoccurring subject in your work - why is this?

We grew up very closely in a single-parent Zimbabwean household. I started painting photos of her younger self, I wanted to document her journey. I thought of young black children who had visited art galleries and seen all these great paintings, but never saw subjects that looked like them. I also include myself in the paintings and the people who have played a role in my life, we became the subjects in order to highlight our existence. 

What inspires you? 

My family is my biggest source of inspiration. They are predominant in my earlier work, they are central to the pieces and are the main characters. I remember during the last term on my Master’s programme I choose to actively separate myself from everyone else, so that I could develop my own style, technique and individual signature that doesn’t take away from any other artist. 


There's a text in Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood (Bell Hooks, 1996) where the author refers to family portraits hung on corridor walls within homes as "gallery walls". What is your take on exhibiting family portraits to outsiders? 
In terms of displaying similar portraiture, each of the original photos were kept in family albums, which we had in abundance. Growing up in an immigrant household it was the norm to take photographs on any and every occasion for the memories. The sentiment is identical in the book and the use of photography to document history. Although my family members who captured these moments don’t really have a background in photography many of these images were from domestic and intimate scenes.

Words: Julie Abricot


"We became the subjects in order to highlight our existence"

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