New Portrait Commission
Zanele Muholi

24 July - 28 Oct 2017

Commissioned by Autograph


Rivington Place



past exhibition

the commission was on display at autograph from 14 july - 28 october  2017.

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About the commission

Autograph commissioned four new self-portraits by Zanele Muholi for the exhibition to commemorate the struggle for equality, freedom of movement and women’s rights in South Africa and beyond.

These can be seen in our exhibition Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail, The Dark Lioness.

The exhibition and new commission highlights the 1956 Women’s March on Pretoria. A pivotal moment in South Africa’s history, thousands of women from different cultural backgrounds united to demonstrate defiantly against repressive Apartheid pass laws, which severely restricted their movements. 

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A series of three portraits are taken at the Old Fort Prison complex at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, where many women were incarcerated for transgressing South Africa’s pass laws during the Apartheid regime.

In the forth work, Muholi is portrayed in Kyoto, Japan, exploring the poetics of identity, transgression and exile in the context of different cultural traditions and locations.

These new works will be exhibited for the first time in the Somnyama Ngonyama series at Autograph. Limited edition prints of three commissioned portraits will be available to purchase, all proceeds support Autograph ABP’s artistic and educational programme as a charity.

About the artist

Zanele Muholi was born in 1972 in Umlazi, Durban, and lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Muholi sees their practice as visual activism to effect social change. Over the past decade, they have become known globally with Faces and Phases, a pioneering portrait photography of South Africa’s LBTQI communities. 

Muholi co-founded the Forum of Empowerment of Women (FEW) in 2002, and founded Inkanyiso, in 2009 as a forum for queer visual activist media.

Muholi studied Advanced Photography at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg, and holds an MFA in Documentary Media from Ryerson University, Toronto. They are an Honorary Professor at the University of the Arts Bremen, and has been the recipient of the prestigious Prince Claus Award and the Carnegie Fine Prize.

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Muholi was 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). Recent solo exhibitions include the Brooklyn Museum, New York (2015); Rencontres D’Arles (2016); and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2017).

Their photographs are represented in the collections of Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Guggenheim, New York; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; South African National Gallery, Cape Town; Walther Collection New York/Neu-Ulm; Tate Modern, London; and others. Muholi is represented by Stevenson Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York.

part of the exhibition

Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness 


Follow visual activist Zanele Muholi on Instagram

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Supported using public funding by Arts Council England

Banner images: 1) Zanele Muholi, Zaki, Kyoto, 2017. 2) Zanele Muholi, Bayephi I, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2017.  3)  Zanele Muholi, Bayephi II Johannesburg, South Africa, 2017. 4)  Zanele Muholi, Bayephi III, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2017. 

Page images, from left: 1) 
Zanele Muholi, Somnyama Ngonyama II [detail],Oslo, 2015. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York. 2) Zanele Muholi, Sebenzile, [detail], Parktown, 2016. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York.