Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Billie Zangewa

Photo Courtesy Of Billie Zangewa

YOU WERE BORN AND RAISED IN MALAWI AND NOW YOU LIVE IN SOUTH AFRICA, WHICH OF EITHER COUNTRIES HAS SHAPED YOU THE MOST?
I was actually raised in Botswana and it has shaped me the most. I lived in a multi-cultural environment where I learnt about other people of the world. In a way I developed a worldly view at this time of my life.

WHAT WERE YOUR ASPIRATIONS GROWING UP? 
I thought about being a lawyer for the power-dressing aspect of it. Then soon after, it came to me that I wanted to be an artist. I have always been a huge fashion fan, watching “Video Fashion Monthly and then Elsa Klensch's “Style” on CNN religiously as well as devouring “Vogue” magazines. Because of this, I thought I would choose a career in fashion so it was a real curve ball so-to-speak. Ironically, I actually did work in fashion as I was trying to find my perfect self-expression and financial independence.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE ART AS YOUR M√ČTIER?
It's not so much that I chose art, rather that it chose me. I was about 9/10 years old and a friend showed me a drawing and it really moved me and I knew that I also wanted to do this. I did not yet know that there was a career and what it was called, but from then on I drew every single day and information about art started coming to me.

WHAT IS YOUR EDUCATIONAL PREPARATION?
I have a Bachelor of Fine Art Degree from Rhodes University in South Africa.

WHAT IS YOUR PREFERRED MEDIUM AND WHAT DO YOU FIND THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECTS OF YOUR WORK TECHNICALLY?
I work primarily with dupion silk and enjoy it immensely.The most challenging thing is that it’s physically demanding; the cutting, pinning and sewing requires a certain level of physical and mental fitness.

IS THERE A PERSON, PLACE OR EXPERIENCE THAT HAS HAD THE GREATEST IMPACT ON YOUR ARTISTIC CAREER?
The visual language of the city, specifically Johannesburg, has probably had the greatest impact. It helped to shape the way that I use silk in my work. The experiences that I had within the city informed the subject matter. There have been a few earth-angels (friends, mentors, strangers...) who have given me signs along the way. My family has also been supportive, although it may not have been their preferred career choice for me.

WHAT ARE THE THEMES IN YOUR CURRENT EXHIBITION, “BODY TALK: FEMINISM, SEXUALITY, AND THE BODY IN THE WORK OF SIX AFRICAN WOMEN ARTISTS”?
The works in this exhibition focus on life in the contemporary context and the daily concerns, but also identity.

IS THERE AN AFRICAN PERSPECTIVE OR IS THE MESSAGE UNIVERSAL AND WHAT DOES ART GIVE US IN THE DIGITAL AGE?
The messages are universal, but I am sharing them from my perspective which is African. I believe that no matter the age, digital or otherwise, music, art and food are part of the human experience. The digital age has opened up new areas of self-expression in art but the physical remains pertinent. We are after all made of matter and live in a physical world.

YOU WORK EXTENSIVELY WITH TEXTILE, SILK SPECIFICALLY, HAVE YOU EVER CONSIDERED TRANSLATING YOUR IDEAS INTO A CLOTHING LINE?
I would love to do that. I have some ideas and when the time is right, it will happen. I have periodically been making my own clothes since I was a young girl so it is a natural consideration.

LAST YEAR YOU WERE ASSIGNED THE MOST STYLISH PERSON IN SOUTH AFRICA AT THE ANNUAL STYLE AWARDS, CAN YOU INSPIRE US TO GET THERE?
It was in 2004 and I believe it to have been the work of my angels both celestial and terrestrial. I was a figure in the South African fashion scene at the time, but did I deserve the title? It came at a time when I had made the decision to focus fully on art and I believe that it was the universe's way of affirming my decision and giving me tools to help me realize my dream. So if one has a dream and believes in it even when it looks impossible, the Style Award or any other kind of gift might come!

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