In the ongoing photographic project Somnyama Ngonyama—isiZulu for Hail the Dark Lioness—South African visual activist Zanele Muholi presents a visionary mosaic of identities, an exquisite empire of selves. This exhibition of more than seventy self-portraits from the series poses critical questions about social (in)justice, human rights, and contested representations of the Black body. Muholi’s stated mission is “to rewrite a Black queer and trans visual history of South Africa for the world to know of our resistance and existence at the height of hate crimes in South Africa and beyond.”
Born in Umlazi in 1972, and based in Johannesburg, Zanele Muholi is the cofounder of the Forum for the Empowerment of Women, and founder of Inkanyiso, a platform for queer and visual media. Muholi has won numerous awards, including the ICP Infinity Award for Documentary and Photojournalism (2016); the Fine Prize for an emerging artist at the 2013 Carnegie International; a Prince Claus Award (2013); and both the Casa África award for best female photographer and a Fondation Blachère award at Les Rencontres de Bamako biennial of African photography (2009). Their Faces and Phases series was shown at dOCUMENTA (13) and the 55th Venice Biennale and was shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize in 2015. Muholi is an honorary professor at the University of the Arts Bremen, Germany, and is represented by Stevenson Gallery, Johannesburg, and Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York.
Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness is organized by Autograph, London. Curated by Renée Mussai.