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Our powerful exhibition Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail The Dark Lioness is touring to the Seattle Art Museum.
In more than 70 photographs, visual activist Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972), uses their body as a canvas to confront the politics of race and representation in the visual archive. In Somnyama Ngonyama, which translates to ‘Hail The Dark Lioness’ in isiZulu, Muholi playfully employs the conventions of classical painting, fashion photography, and the familiar tropes of ethnographic imagery to rearticulate contemporary identity politics.
Each black and white self-portrait asks critical questions about social injustice, human rights, and contested representations of the Black body.
- Zanele Muholi
Zanele Muholi is a visual activist and photographer based in Johannesburg. Muholi’s self-proclaimed mission is “to re-write 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.”
Muholi co-founded the Forum for Empowerment of Women (FEW) in 2002 and Inkanyiso (www.inkanyiso.org), a forum for queer and visual (activist) media, in 2009. Muholi studied Advanced Photography at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg, and in 2009 completed an MFA: Documentary Media at Ryerson University in Toronto. In 2013, they became an honorary professor at the University of the Arts/Hochschule für Künste Bremen.
Muholi was bestowed France’s highest cultural honor, the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts des Lettres. They were included in the South African pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013) and took part in the São Paolo Biennial (2010) and documenta 13, Kassel (2013). Muholi has been awarded an Honorary Fellowship at the 2018 Royal Photographic Society Awards and Aperture has received the 2018 Lucie award for Book Publisher of the Year for their work on the artist's latest publication, Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness.
Banner images: Ntozakhe II, Parktown, 2016 © Zanele Muholi, Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/ Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York. Page images, from top left: 1) ZaKi [detail], Kyoto, Japan, 2017 © Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of Autograph, London. 2) Kodwa I [detail], Amsterdam, 2017 © Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York. 3) Bester I [detail], Mayotte, 2015 © Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York. 4) Somnyama Ngonyama II, Oslo, 2015 © Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York. 5) Sibusiso [detail], Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy, 2015. © Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York. 6) Bayephi III [detail], Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, 2017 © Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of Autograph, London.