Photographer wins Tollman Award for 2005
by Sue Williamson
Photographer Zanele Muholi, whose work can currently be seen on 'Subject to Change' at the South African National Gallery, has been announced as the 2005 winner of the Tollman Award for the Visual Arts. The R100 000 award is made annually to a young artist who has received critical recognition but is hampered financially in realising his or her potential work. It is intended to provide an opportunity for an artist to work towards an exhibition, study further or travel abroad. Past winners are Wim Botha and Churchill Madikida (joint winners 2003) and Mustafa Maluka (2004).
Muholi has become known for her photographs allowing sensitive and intimate insights into the lives of black lesbian women. Born in Umlazi, Durban, in 1972, Muholi now lives in Johannesburg, She completed an Advanced Photography course at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown and is currently employed as a community relations officer for the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW), a black lesbian organisation based in Gauteng. Muholi has also worked as a photographer and reporter for Behind the Mask (www.mask.org.za), an online magazine on lesbian and gay issues in Africa.
Her work is in the collection of the South African National Gallery, and featured on the SANG's recent exhibition 'Subject to Change'. She has participated in a number of conferences and exhibitions including the 'Gender and Visuality' and 'Doing Gender' conferences at the University of the Western Cape; 'Visual Culture' at the University of Pretoria; 'World Beyond Words' at the Centre for African Studies, UCT; 'Sexual Rights and Moral Panics' at the International Association for the Study of Sexuality, Culture and Society, California, United States; and the Klein Karoo and Month of Photography festivals.
Sponsors of this important award, the Tollman family, grew up in South Africa and although they left the country to pursue business interests elsewhere, over the past decade they have been investing in the tourism and wine industries. Their award is given in response to and in support of the extraordinary creativity that they have encountered in the visual arts.
A committee comprising Rochelle Keene, Director of the Adler Museum at Wits; Walter Oltmann, an artist and lecturer in Fine Art at the University of Witwatersrand and Michael Stevenson, an art dealer and art historian, draw up a shortlist based on exhibitions they had seen in the past year. Muholi's photographic work stood out for her sensitive and intimate insight into the lives of black lesbian women.