Despite South Africa’s progressive Constitution and celebration in 2014 of twenty years of democracy following the end of Apartheid, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community there remains the target of discrimination and hate crimes. In response to these brutalities, Muholi began an historically unprecedented photographic archive Faces and Phases (2006−ongoing), broadening, deepening, and personalizing the visual representation of the LGBTI community in South Africa and around the world; part of this archive will be on view starting May 1st in the exhibition Zanele Muholi: Isibonelo/Evidence at the Brooklyn Museum with the full series being shown at Yancey Richardson Gallery this fall.
Alongside her groundbreaking portraits of friends, peers, and colleagues, Muholi has created a burgeoning body of self-portraits, which turns the camera on her own likeness. The following pages in Document Journal premiere eight images created in 2014 and 2015 by Muholi as part of a multi-year project focused on self-portraiture. In this newest group of photographs, Zanele presents a range of “selves”, from the intimate and playful to the bold and powerful. Several images critically engage with colonial visions and ethnographic tropes of traditional African photography, while others displace accepted notions of the black female body and the presumed patriarchal gaze upon it.
“You can’t change the laws without changing the images. Is is one things to say we exist; it is another to show it.”
Born in 1972 in the Umlazi township in Durban, South Africa, Muholi currently lives and works in Johannesburg. Prior to her work in photography, she was a human rights activist and founded Inkanyiso, an organization centered on visual arts, media, and advocacy. Muholi is the winner of prestigious awards from the 2009 Rencontres de Bamako African Photography Biennial; the 2013 Carnegie International; and the 2013 Prince Claus Award. Her work was part of the 55th Venice Biennale; Documenta 13, Kassel; the 29th São Paulo Biennial; and can be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; South African National Gallery, Cape Town; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and Tate Modern, London. Muholi’s award-winning documentary Difficult Love (2010) has been shown at film festivals around the world.
Zanele Muholi: Isibonelo/Evidence is on view at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, May 1−November 1, 2015. This portrait series will also be included in Muholi’s solo exhibition at Yancey Richardson Gallery this fall.