Muholi at the 2011 International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
|Education||Market Photo Workshop, MFA in Ryerson University|
|Awards||Mbokodo Award (Visual Art) for South African Women in the Arts|
Zanele Muholi (born 19 July) is a South African artist and visual activist working in photography, video and installation. Muholi's work focuses on race, gender and sexuality with a body of work looking at black lesbian, gay, transgender, and intersex individuals.
Muholi was shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize in 2015. She received an Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography in 2016, a Chevalier de Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2016, and an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society in 2018.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Photography
- 3 Activism
- 4 Documentaries
- 5 Attacks and robberies
- 6 Books
- 7 Exhibitions
- 8 Awards
- 9 Collections
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Zanele Muholi was born on 19 July in Umlazi, Durban, and raised there. Her father was Ashwell Tanji Banda Muholi and her mother was Bester Muholi. She is the youngest of five children. Muholi's mother was a domestic worker who had to leave her children to work for a white family during Apartheid in South Africa. Muholi was raised by an extended family.
Muholi 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.
Muholi has described herself as a visual activist as opposed to an artist. She is dedicated to increasing the visibility of black lesbian, gay, transgender, and intersex people. She researched and documented the stories of hate crimes against the lgbtiq community in order to bring forth the realities of "corrective rape", assault, and HIV/AIDS, to public attention.
In 2014, she presented at the Design Indaba Conference in Cape Town.
Muholi's photography has been compared to that of W.E.B. DuBois— as a tool to subvert the typical representations of African Americans. Each photographer creates an archive of photos, working to dismantle dominant, pre-existing perceptions of the subjects they chose to photograph. 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. Thus, her work can be considered documentative, recording the overall community LGBTI of South Africa and their challenges, and at times, more specifically the struggle of black lesbians. Before 1994, black lesbian voices were excluded from the making of a formal queer movement. Muholi's efforts of creating a more positive visualization of LGBTI Africans combats the homophobic-motivated violence that is prevalent in South Africa today, especially in the case of black lesbians. While black women's bodies appear frequently throughout sexualized pop-culture, black lesbians are viewed (through the lens of the patriarchy and heteronormativity) as undesirable. This negative view of homosexuals in Africa lead to violence, such as murder and rape, and rejection from their families. Muholi's Zukiswa (2010), shows an African lesbian woman making eye contact with the viewer, displaying an unwavering gaze of confidence, self-awareness, and determination. This example encourages awareness, acceptance, and positivity with the queer community as well as South Africa.
Although Muholi became known as a photographer who engaged with the then-invisible lives of black lesbians in South Africa, she began to recognize this idea of "gender within gender." In 2003, and her sense of community definitively began to include trans people. Muholi was employed as a photographer and reporter for Behind the Mask, an online magazine on LGBTI issues in Africa.
Muholi first received global attention from the art world in 2012 at Documenta, a world-famous exhibition of modern and contemporary art in (Germany), for a series of portraits of lesbians and transgender participants titled: Faces and Phases. The photos were also exhibited at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.
Visual Sexuality: Only Half the Picture (2004)
Muholi launched her visual activism through her first solo exhibition entitled Visual Sexuality: Only Half the Picture, at the Johannesburg Art Gallery in 2004. This exhibition featured photographs of survivors of rape and hate crimes as well as an image of a rape and an assault case number. The artist explicitly captures the images as to not reveal the person's gender. The viewer may only have access to an above the knee, and hip shot with hands over the genital region. In contrast to her later exhibitions, the people in these images remain anonymous. Although homosexuality is technically protected legally under the South African government, many individuals do not exercise their legal rights publicly in fear of violent backlash. There is also a reluctance to report cases of hate crimes since officials will often ridicule the victim and nothing will be accomplished. This is a systematic use of violence and oppression. In Only Half the Picture series, the artist was able to give LGBT people a voice without ousting their anonymity. Her work is mostly about bringing visibility of queers in the black community.
Faces and Phases (2006–ongoing)
in 2006, Muholi began her Faces and Phases project. Faces and Phases mocks the "art-in-service-to-science" narrative engrained in colonial images. 18th century botany imagery shows various plants plucked from their natural environment therefore erasing any social or cultural context. This practice emphasizes Western discovery of an object without acknowledging its longstanding existence. In Faces and Phases, Muholi utilizes this history and compares it to the representation of LGBTI in South Africa. Black queer individuals have increased drastically in national representation but this is still an erasure of important context. These individuals are represented in the same way as the botanical prints. There is increased visibility for Western consumption but no attention is paid to the suffering and systematic oppression these individuals face in post-apartheid South Africa. Muholi challenges this in her series by providing names, dates, locations, and representing the participants within a public sphere. Without captions, the photographs could fall under the normalized gaze of the West.
In June 2014, Muholi was back at her alma mater, showing Faces and Phases at the Ryerson Image Centre as part of WorldPride. 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.
Innovative Women (2009)
In 2009, the Innovative Women exhibition was shown in South Africa in the cities of Durban and Cape Town. It was curated by painter Bongi Bhengu and features her work as well as 9 other artists including Muholi and photographer Nandipha Mntambo. In August 2009, the Minister of Arts and Culture Lulu Xingwana walked out of the exhibition due to Muholi's photography, calling it immoral, offensive and going against nation-building. 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."
Somnyama Ngonyama ("Hail the Dark Lioness") (2012–present)
This series had a debut exhibition at Yancey Richardson Gallery in New York in 2015. It was shown in London in 2017 and in Times Square in New York City as digital billboards during the city's autumn 2017 Performa Biennial festival. Previews in Muholi's New York gallery were sold out. The photos were published in a 2018 book published by Aperture.
In 2009, Muholi founded Inkanyiso, a non-profit organisation concerned with queer visual activism. It is involved with visual arts and media advocacy for and on behalf of the LGBTI community. The organization's vision statement is "Produce. Educate. Disseminate."
In 2010, Muholi co-directed her documentary Difficult Love, which was commissioned by SABC. It has shown in South Africa, USA, Spain, Sweden, UK, Amsterdam, Paris (Festival Cinefable) and Italy. In 2013, Muholi co-directed a documentary called We Live in Fear, released by Human Rights Watch.
Attacks and robberies
On 20 April 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 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. This effectively erased the previous five years of Muholi's work. A few weeks later she said, "I'm still traumatized by the burglary" and, "It's hard to fall asleep in this place, which is now a crime scene, as I dealt with many crime scenes before."
In July 2017, a collaborator of Muholi's, Sibahle Nkumbi, was pushed down a staircase in Amsterdam by her Airbnb host while visiting the Netherlands to cover the opening of Muholi's exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum. Nkumbi was hospitalised, sustaining a concussion and substantial bruising. Video footage of the confrontation subsequently went viral, and the host was charged with attempted manslaughter.
- Zanele Muholi: Only Half The Picture. Cape Town: Michael Stevenson, 2006. ISBN 0-620361468.
- Faces and Phases. Munich; Berlin; London; New York: Prestel, 2010. ISBN 978-3-7913-4495-9.
- Zanele Muholi. African Women Photographers #1. Granada, Spain: Casa África/La Fábrica, 2011. ISBN 978-8-4150-3466-7.
- Faces + Phases 2006–14. Göttingen, Germany: Steidl, 2014. ISBN 978-3-86930-807-4 .
- Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness. Renée Mussai (author), Zanele Muholi (photographer), et al., New York: Aperture, 2018, ISBN 978-1597114240
- 2004: Visual Sexuality, as part of Urban Life (Market Photo Workshop exhibition), Johannesburg Art Gallery
- 2006: Vienna Kunsthalle project space, Vienna: Slide Show
- 2014: Faces and Phases, Massimadi Afrocaribbean LGBT international film festival, Montréal, Canada
- 2015: Zanele Muholi: Vukani/Rise, Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool, UK
- 2015: Somnyama Ngonyama, Yancey Richardson, New York City
- 2017: Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness, Autograph ABP, London
- 2017: Zanele Muholi Homecoming: Durban Art Gallery
- 2011: Figures & Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
- 2016: Systematically Personae at the FotoFocus Biennal, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
- 2017: Art/Afrique, Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris.
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- 2005: Tollman Award for the Visual Arts
- 2006: BHP Billiton/Wits University Visual Arts Fellowship
- 2009: Thami Mnyele Residency in Amsterdam
- 2009: Ida Ely Rubin Artist-in-Residence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA
- 2009: Fondation Blachère award at African Photography Encounters (Rencontres Africaines de la Photographie, Biennale Africaine de la photographie) in Bamako, Mali
- 2009: Fanny Ann Eddy accolade from IRN-Africa for her outstanding contributions to the study of sexuality in Africa
- 2012: Civitella Ranieri Fellowship by the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Italy
- 2013: Freedom of Expression award by Index on Censorship
- 2013: Glamour Magazine named her Campaigner of the Year
- 2013: Winner of the Fine Prize for the 2013 Carnegie International
- 2013: Prince Claus Award.
- 2013: Feather Award (South Africa's LGBTI Awards)
- 2015: Shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize for Faces and Phases 2006–2014
- 2015: Light Work Artist-in-Residence Program, Syracuse, NY
- 2016: Infinity Award for Documentary and Photojournalism from the International Center of Photography, New York City.
- 2016: Africa'S Out! Courage and Creativity Award
- 2016: Outstanding International Alumni Award from Ryerson University
- 2017: Mbokodo Award (Visual Art) for South African Women in the Arts
- 2017: Chevalier de Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knighthood of the Order Arts and Letters)
- 2018: Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society, Bath
Muholi's work is held in the following public collection:
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- Raél Jero Salley. African Arts. Los Angeles: Winter 2012. Vol. 45, Iss. 4; pg. 58, 12 pgs
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- Natasha Bissonauth (2014), "Zanele Muholi's Affective Appeal to Act". Photography and Culture 7:3, pp. 239–251.
- 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.
- 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.
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- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 August 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- Smith, David (2 March 2010). "South African minister describes lesbian photos as immoral". The Guardian. London.
- Lisa Van Wyk (5 March 2010). "Xingwana: Homophobic claims 'baseless, insulting'". Mail & Guardian.
- Baderoon, Gabeba (2011). ""Gender within Gender": Zanele Muholi's Images of Trans Being and Becoming". Feminist Studies. 37 (2): 390–416. JSTOR 23069910.
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- Scott, Andrea K. (20 October 2017). "The Fever-Dream Urgency of Zanele Muholi's Self-Portraits in "Somnyama Ngonyama"". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
- "With Zanele Muholi, the South African LGBTQ Community Is (Literally) Taking Center Stage". Vogue. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
- Wortham, Jenna (8 October 2015). "Zanele Muholi's Transformations". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
- "The Fever-Dream Urgency of Zanele Muholi's Self-Portraits in "Somnyama Ngonyama"". The New Yorker. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
- "inkanyiso.org". inkanyiso.org.
- "Full Movie (Difficult Love)". IMDb.
- "SABC – Official Website – South African Broadcasting Corporation". sabc.co.za. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
- "Zanele Muholi, Visual Activist". Human Rights Watch. 22 November 2013. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
- Michelle Jones (7 May 2012). "Burglar loots city photographer's work". Cape Times.
- 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.
- Curtis, Elissa (21 May 2012). "Faces and Phases: Portraits from South Africa's Lesbian Community". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
- "Amsterdam Airbnb Host Shoves South African Filmmaker Down Staircase". Hyperallergic. 12 July 2017. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
- Herreria, Carla (14 July 2017). "Amsterdam Airbnb Host Accused of Pushing South African Down Stairs Is Arrested". HuffPost. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
- "Zanele Muholi: VUKANI/RISE – Open Eye Gallery". Open Eye Gallery. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
- "Zanele Muholi's Somnyama Ngonyama – Hail the Dark Lioness". British Journal of Photography. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
- Gevisser, Mark (23 April 2011). "Figures & Fictions at the V&A". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
- "Fondation Louis Vuitton expos Art/ Afrique, le nouvel atelier". Fondation Louis Vuitton. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
- "Arles 2016: 'SYSTEMATICALLY OPEN?'? Curator Zanele Muholi", L'Oeil de la Photographie, 11 July 2016.
- "A R T T H R O B _ N E W S". artthrob.co.za. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
- exhibit-e.com. "Fellows List – Fellows – Civitella Ranieri". civitella.org. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
- Censorship, Index on. "Winners – Index Awards 2013 – Index on Censorship Index on Censorship". indexoncensorship.org. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
- "The 2013 GLAMOUR Women of the Year". Retrieved 26 October 2018.
- "Carnegie and Fine Prizes Announced | Jury awards artists Nicole Eisenman and Zanele Muholi with Carnegie Prize and Fine Prize", 2013 Carnegie International.
- "Prince Claus Fund – Activities". princeclausfund.org.
- "The Feather Awards". The Feather Awards. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
- "DBPP 2015". The Photographers' Gallery. Retrieved 1 March 2017.
- "Deutsche Börse Photography Prize shortlist 2015". The Daily Telegraph. 3 December 2014. Retrieved 1 March 2017.
- "Artist-in-Residence Program". Light Work. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
- "2016 Infinity Award: Documentary and Photojournalism — Zanele Muholi", International Center of Photography.
- "Winners". mbokodoawards.co.za. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
- "France Knights Zanele Muholi". HuffPost South Africa. 21 November 2017. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
- "The Royal Photographic Society Awards 2018". rps.org. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
- "Zanele Muholi". guggenheim.org. Retrieved 1 October 2018.