Muholi, Zanele


South African, b. 1972; lives and works in Johannesburg und Cape Town, South Africa


Zanele Muholi describes herself as an "activist-photographer," and she attempts in her work to draw attention to the invisibility and intolerance often felt by black South African lesbians and transgender individuals. Although the South African constitution ensures equality to all citizens and allows same-sex marriages, these policies are rarely enforced by government officials. Human Rights Watch reported in 2011 that entrenched discrimination and rigid attitudes toward traditional male and female social roles have lead to frequent acts of physical and sexual violence against gay, lesbian, and transgender people. Muholi’s series of black-and-white photographs, "Faces and Phases," portrays black queer and trans people from different places and professions with great subtlety and intimacy. Adopting a serial portrait format, Muholi has created a "wall of fame" to honor those individuals that her society denigrates as a faceless group. "I embarked on a journey of visual activism to ensure that there is black lesbian and trans visibility, to showcase our existence and resistance in this democratic society, to present a positive imagery of black lesbians," Muholi says. "The portraits celebrate friends and acquaintances who hold different positions and play different roles within black queer communities—including an actress, athletes, soccer players, a scholar, cultural activists, dancers, filmmakers, writers, photographers, human rights and gender activists, mothers, lovers, grannies, friends, sisters, brothers, daughters, aunties, uncles, nieces, nephews, and sons."

Artworks by Muholi, Zanele

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