Zanele Muholi (b. 1972) is based in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Zanele Muholi largely draws inspiration from local South African black queer communities, including herself and her friends. Her work is informed by a long history of oppressive colonization, which lays the structural foundation of how we imagine blackness, the female body, queer sexuality, and representation today. Her work is also informed by contemporary South African politics, a system that constitutionally protects the rights of queer people, but often fails to defend them from targeted violence.
For the past few years, Muholi has largely turned the camera around on herself, practicing self-documentation in the form of portraiture and performance. An ongoing project, ‘Somnyama Ngonyama’ finds the artist using self-portraiture as a tool of intimacy, serving as commentary on contemporary political and cultural issues that affect black people in Africa and its diaspora.
ArtThrob would also like to thank TECCO Photo for the very generously donated Baryta Fibre paper.
Muholi is a visual activist. She was born in 1972 in Umlazi, Durban, and lives in Johannesburg. She co-founded the Forum for Empowerment of Women (FEW) in 2002, and in 2009 founded Inkanyiso (www.inkanyiso.org), a forum for queer and visual (activist) media.
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 SA and beyond’. She continues to train and co-facilitates photography workshops for young women in the townships.
Muholi studied Advanced Photography at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg, and in 2009 completed an MFA: Documentary Media at Ryerson University, Toronto. She is an Honorary Professor at the University of the Arts/Hochschule für Künste Bremen.
Muholi has won numerous awards including the ICP Infinity Award for Documentary and Photojournalism (2016); Africa’Sout! Courage and Creativity Award (2016); the Outstanding International Alumni Award from Ryerson University (2016); the Fine Prize for an emerging artist at the 2013 Carnegie International; a Prince Claus Award (2013); the Index on Censorship – Freedom of Expression art award (2013); and the Casa Africa award for best female photographer and a Fondation Blachère award at Les Rencontres de Bamako biennial of African photography (2009).
Her Faces and Phases series has shown at Documenta 13; the South African Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale; and the 29th São Paulo Biennale. Solo exhibitions have taken place at institutions including the Mead Art Museum, Amherst; Gallatin Galleries, New York; Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Akershus Kunstsenter, Norway; Einsteinhaus, Ulm; Schwules Museum, Berlin; Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown and Casa Africa, Las Palmas. Her Somnyama Ngonyama series has been recently exhibited in a solo show at the Standard Bank Gallery during the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.
Her most recent group shows include the Berlin Biennale (2016); Mina/Meg at the Kulturhistorisk Museum in Oslo (2016); Systematically Open? New forms of production of the contemporary image at LUMA, Parc des Ateliers in Arles (2016); Reality of My Surroundings at the Nasher Museum of Art in North Carolina (2016); African Art Against the State at the Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown (2016); After Eden/Après Eden – The Walther Collection at La Maison Rouge in Paris (2015); Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein and at the Guggenheim Bilbao (2015); The Order of Things: Photography from the Walther Collection at The Walther Collection in Ulm (2014) and After Our Bodies Meet: From Resistance to Potentiality at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York (2014).
Muholi was shortlisted for the 2015 Deutsche Börse Photography Prize for her publication Faces and Phases 2006-14 (Steidl/The Walther Collection). Other publications include Zanele Muholi: African Women Photographers #1 (Casa Africa and La Fábrica, 2011); Faces and Phases (Prestel, 2010); and Only half the picture (Stevenson, 2006).