Textile artist Billie Zangewa uses silk and found fabric to embroider portraits of herself, friends, family, and others in domestic interiors and urban cityscapes. Her subject matter centers on her own position and experiences as a Black African woman, touching on ideas of motherhood, femininity, and women’s labor. Drawing on a medium traditionally associated with women’s labor and with techniques learned from the women in her family, Zangewa reflects: “I wanted to use this dismissed cultural thing to speak against patriarchy by creating powerful images about the importance of another dismissed thing, domesticity and the ordinary but important aspects of women’s daily life and work in and around the home.”

With Self-Care Sunday, Zangewa creates a stitched fabric scene of a Black woman protagonist at home. Composed of irregular silk samples, her character wears a towel and appears to be gazing at her freshly manicured nails. She sits at a dresser covered with various bottles of nail polish, as well as a coffee mug and a bottle of sparkling mineral water. Quotidian scenes are a primary focus for Zangewa, whose recent work recasts the gendered labor of homemaking as a political act for Black mothers in a white supremacist culture. Fragments cut from the canvas and edges purposefully left unhemmed suggest the undervaluation of care work and, in particular, Black women’s labor in a patriarchal society. The play of finished and unfinished components also contributes to the quality of storytelling in her works. Zangewa wields each of these technical devices to emphasize healing and re-creation, particularly in the recovery of feminine self-expression. “Society teaches us as women to be ashamed about ourselves, to feel self-loathing,” explains the artist. “I’m reclaiming my identity, my feminine power, and my significance in society at large.”