Zanele Muholi

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Zanele Muholi
Zanele Muholi. Festival «Side by Side».JPG
Muholi at the 2011 International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
Born (1972-07-19) 19 July 1972 (age 44)
Umlazi, Durban
Nationality South African
Known for Photography

Zanele Muholi (born 19 July 1972) is a South African artist and visual activist working in photography, video and installation. [1]

Early life[edit]

Muholi was born on 19 July 1972 in Umlazi, Durban to Ashwell Tanji Banda Muholi and Bester Muholi and she is the youngest of 5 children. She completed an Advanced Photography course at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg in 2003, and held her first solo exhibition at the Johannesburg Art Gallery in 2004. In 2009 she was awarded her Master of Fine Arts degree in Documentary Media from Ryerson University in Toronto. Her thesis mapped the visual history of black lesbian identity and politics in post-Apartheid South Africa.[2]


Zanele Muholi is a visual activist dedicated to increasing the visibility of black lesbian, gay, transgender, and intersex people. Through her artistic approach she hopes to document the journey of the African queer community as a record for future generations. She tries to capture the moment without negativity or focusing on the prevalent violence, portraying the LGBTQI community as individuals and as a whole to encourage unity.[1][3][4][5][6]

Muholi was employed as a photographer and reporter for Behind the Mask,[7] an online magazine on LGBTI issues in Africa. In 2002, she co-founded the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW),[8] a black lesbian organization dedicated to providing a safe space for women to meet and organize. She researched and documented the stories of hate crimes against the gay community in order to bring forth the realities of “corrective rape”,[9] assault, and HIV/AIDS, to public attention.

Muholi launched her visual activism through her first solo exhibition entitled Visual Sexuality: Only Half the Picture, at the Johannesburg Art Gallery in 2004. Her work is mostly about bringing visibility of queers in the black community.

In 2009, Muholi founded Inkanyiso,[10] a non-profit organisation concerned with visual activism. It is involved with visual arts and media advocacy for and on behalf of the LGBTI community. The organisation’s vision statement is "Produce. Educate. Disseminate."

In August 2009, Minister of Arts and Culture, Lulu Xingwana walked out of an exhibition that featured Muholi’s photography, calling it immoral, offensive and going against nation-building.[11] In her response Muholi said "It's paralysing. I expected people to think before they act, and to ask questions. I wanted to create dialogue"[12]

On April 20, 2012, Muholi's flat in Vredehoek was robbed, with over twenty primary and back-up external hard drives containing five years' worth of photos and video being stolen with her laptop. Photos contained therein include records of the funerals of three Black South African lesbians murdered in hate crimes. Nothing else was stolen, raising suspicions that Muholi's recordings of Black lesbian life was targeted. Muholi was overseas at the time of the robbery.[13][14]

In 2010, Muholi co-directed her documentary Difficult Love,[15] which was commissioned by SABC.[16] It has shown in South Africa, USA, Spain, Sweden, UK, Amsterdam, Paris (Festival Cinefable) and Italy.

On the 28th of October 2013, she was appointed Honorary Professor - video and photography at the University of the Arts/Hochschule für Künste Bremen in Germany.[17]

In 2014, she presented at the Design Indaba Conference in Cape Town.[18]

In June 2014, Muholi was back at her alma mater, showing Faces and Phases[19] at the Ryerson Image Centre as part of World Pride.[20] In the same month she showed at the Singapore International Arts Festival's O.P.E.N. where she also spoke on legacies of violence.[21]

In 2015, Muholi presented Isibonelo/Evidence in a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum. The show included eighty-seven works. [22]




Solo exhibitions[edit]

  • 2004: Visual Sexuality, as part of Urban Life (Market Photo Workshop exhibition), Johannesburg Art Gallery
  • 2006: Only half the picture, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town; Market Photo Workshop, Johannesburg; Galerie 32-34, Amsterdam SoWhereTo Now, Afrovibes[24] and Galeries 32-34, Amsterdam
  • 2006: Vienna Kunsthalle project space, Vienna: Slide Show
  • 2007: Being, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town
  • 2009: Faces and Phases, Brodie/Stevenson, Johannesburg, Like a Virgin (two-person exhibition), CCA Lagos, Nigeria
  • 2010: Indawo Yami, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town
  • 2014: Faces and Phases, Massimadi Afrocaribbean LGBT international film festival, Montréal, Canada
  • 2015: Somnyama Ngonyama, Yancey Richardson, New York City

Selected group exhibition[edit]

2017 : Art/Afrique Fondation Luis Vuitton, Paris



  1. ^ a b Raél Jero Salley. African Arts. Los Angeles: Winter 2012. Vol. 45, Iss. 4; pg. 58, 12 pgs
  2. ^ "Account Suspended" (PDF). 
  3. ^ Muholi, Zanele. "Faces and phases." Transition: An International Review 107 (2011): 112+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 14 May 2015.
  4. ^ Natasha Bissonauth, (2014) Zanele Muholi's Affective Appeal to Act. Photography and Culture 7:3, pages 239-251.
  5. ^ van der Vlies, Andrew. "Queer Knowledge And The Politics Of The Gaze In Contemporary South African Photography: Zanele Muholi And Others." Journal Of African Cultural Studies 24.2 (2012): 140-156. Academic Search Complete. Web. 14 May 2015.
  6. ^ Makhubu, Nomusa M. "Violence and the cultural logics of pain: representations of sexuality in the work of Nicholas Hlobo and Zanele Muholi." Critical Arts 26.4 (2012): 504+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 14 May 2015.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 July 2010. Retrieved 3 July 2010. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 April 2010. Retrieved 3 July 2010. 
  10. ^ "". 
  11. ^ Smith, David (2 March 2010). "South African minister describes lesbian photos as immoral". The Guardian. London. 
  12. ^ Lisa Van Wyk. "Xingwana: Homophobic claims 'baseless, insulting'". The M&G Online. 
  13. ^ Michelle Jones (May 7, 2012). "Burglar loots city photographer’s work". Cape Times. 
  14. ^ Laura Reynolds (15 May 2012). "Media ignore theft of photographer’s work documenting black lesbian lives". Pink Paper. Archived from the original on 14 July 2012. 
  15. ^ "Full Movie (Difficult Love) - IMDb". IMDb. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ "HFK Bremen". 
  18. ^ "Design Indaba Conference 2014". Design Indaba. 
  19. ^ "Zanele Muholi - RIC - Exhibitions - Ryerson University". 
  20. ^ "Pride Toronto". Pride Toronto. 
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 August 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2014. 
  22. ^ Schwendener, Martha (2015-05-14). "Review: Zanele Muholi, a Visual Activist, Presents ‘Isibonelo/Evidence’". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-06-23. 
  23. ^ "Zanele Muholi". 
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 3 July 2010. 
  25. ^ Gevisser, Mark (23 April 2011). "Figures & Fictions at the V&A". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 28 February 2017. 
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Prince Claus Fund - Activities". 
  28. ^ "DBPP 2015". The Photographers' Gallery. Retrieved 1 March 2017. 
  29. ^ "Deutsche Börse Photography Prize shortlist 2015". The Daily Telegraph. 3 December 2014. Retrieved 1 March 2017. 
  30. ^
  31. ^