Before I Formed Thee in the Belly I Knew Thee,* 2003–2023, installation (drypoint on paper, ink, plastic and eyelets; etching and aquatint on paper; silkscreen, collagraphy on paper and ink on silk mesh). Courtesy of the artist and Tiwani Contemporary.
Virginia Chihota revisits fragments of prints from her formative years when she studied in Harare with Chikonzero (Chiko) Chazunguza. The various prints carry the energy of first-hand experimentation and spontaneous attempts with drypoint. They also unpack the materiality of found materials, such as x-rays that Chihota collected and bleached at the time, which allowed her to work with the trajectory of ghost images that are often embedded in the medium itself. These prints have accompanied the artist over the years and Chihota has added to them here with new gestures and her mastery of other techniques such as etching, aquatint, collagraphy and silkscreen, and above all her mature relationship to silkscreen. The layering is made visible through the presentation itself, where a silk mesh holds the prints on clotheslines, showing the process and the set-up of the studio as part of Chihota’s home. These three different textile “screens” interweave the old in new ways, connecting Chiko’s legacy, Chihota’s personal journey from Zimbabwe to Montenegro or most recently Ethiopia, and the memory of Zimbabwean artists who gave their work away to the former Yugoslavia. It opens up a very intimate conversation about printmaking as a learning process across time and space. The work functions like a psychological ghost trip that carries genesis, identity, memory and process, as well as glimpses at history through a veil ‘of the void from which came gifts of the cosmos.’
B. 1983, Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe. Lives and works in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.