'Soldier of Love': Artist Billie Zangewa enlists in the fight for compassion


Her portraits and still lifes are painted less with brushes and more with stitches, offcuts and textured fabrics. Billie Zangewa tells us why working with textiles was a way to subvert traditional attitudes towards craft, and why, as an introvert, revealing her vulnerability is a way to build bridges with others. As a South African and Malawian artist, Zangewa tells us about the quirks and contradictions of showing her work outside its home culture, why her generation is looking beyond the scars of apartheid and why radical empathy could provide a solution to many of the world’s problems. 


From personal portraits painted in stitches, to offcuts, embroidery and all sorts of textiles, Billie Zangewa creates multi-layered luminous images that tell quietly compelling stories. The artist has swapped her studio in South Africa for our studio in Paris to tell us more about her new collection of work

"I called the show 'Soldier of Love' because I feel that we live in very, very difficult times, where there is a lot of pain and suffering that people are inflicting against each other all over the world and I feel like we've forgotten the basics, which is love: love of self, love of humanity, love of the world," she told FRANCE 24's Olivia Salazar-Winspear.

The artist added: "People are a bit jaded and there's this idea that considering love is the answer to all of man's sufferings is idealisic. And I don't believe that's true. I actually believe that it is possible that if we all focused on first loving ourselves and then giving that love out, that a lot of the suffering that we're experiencing today would go away."

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