Zanele Muholi - SOMNYAMA NGONYAMA
(HAIL, THE DARK LIONESS)
1st October - 6th November 2022
East Quad, University of Glasgow
'Photography for me is always first and foremost a tool of activism, driven by the idea of social change.’ - Zanele Muholi
Street Level Photoworks, in partnership with The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery and Belfast Photo Festival, are delighted to present SOMNYAMA NGONYAMA (HAIL, THE DARK LIONESS), an outdoor solo exhibition by renowned photographer Zanele Muholi.
One of the most acclaimed artists working today, 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’. Describing themself as a visual activist, from the early 2000s, Muholi has documented and celebrated the lives of South Africa’s Black lesbian, gay, trans, queer and intersex communities.
In their series SOMNYAMA NGONYAMA (meaning ‘Hail, the Dark Lioness’) they turn the camera on themself: ‘In contrast to my life-long project of documenting members of my black LGBTI community in South Africa and beyond—one in which I normally have the privilege of witnessing participants’ presentation of themselves according to their own self-image—with this body of work I have created portraits in which I am both participant and image-maker. It is an unflinchingly personal approach I have taken as a visual activist to confronting the politics of race and pigment in the photographic archive. It is a statement of self-presentation through portraiture.’
In this evocative series of self-portraits, everyday objects are transformed into dramatic and historically loaded props. In staging themself as a variety of identities, archetypes and personae, Muholi’s work poses critical questions about the politics of representation.
This is Belfast Photo Festival touring exhibition and delivered in partnership with Street Level Photoworks and The Hunterian, University of Glasgow.
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.
Banner Image: Installation view in the East Quad, University of Glasgow © Street Level Photoworks
Left Image: Zanele Muholi, Somnyama I, Paris, 2014 © Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg/Amsterdam and Yancey Richardson, New York.
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