“I am producing this photographic document to encourage people to be brave enough to occupy space, brave enough to create without fear of being vilified ... To teach people about our history, to re-think what history is all about, to re-claim it for ourselves, to encourage people to use artistic tools such as cameras as weapons to fight back …forcing the viewer to question their desire to gaze at images of my black figure”

Faces and Phases is a commemoration and celebration of black lesbians, Transgender individuals and Gender non-conforming people from South Africa and beyond. Muholi embarked on this project in 2006. To date, more than 500 portraits are part of this series. Collectively, the portraits are an act of visual activism, depicting participants of various ages, backgrounds and at different stages of their lives. Faces and Phases started months before the Civil Union Act was passed in 2006, legalising same-sex marriage in South Africa. Muholi was aware of the absence of this community from visual history. Choosing to photograph people they know, the artist has maintained these relationships across time, producing follow-up images of some participants in different periods of their lives. The project is a living archive, and Muholi continues to introduce the audience to new participants.

Left to Right: Zanele Muholi; Faces and Phases Selection, 2006-2019; Mellisa Mbambo, Durban, KwaZulu Natal, 2020; Zabantu I, Boston, 2016; MaID IV, 2018; and Sazi Jali, Durban, KwaZulu Natal, 2020.


  • Title: Faces and Phases Selection
  • Creator: Zanele Muholi
  • Date Created: 2006/2019
  • Location Created: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
  • Physical Dimensions: 88 x 62 cm (each framed)
  • Provenance: Presented at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with generous assistance from the Sherman Foundation, and in partnership with PHOTO 2020. Public programming relating to this project was made possible with generous support from the Naomi Milgrom Foundation. Courtesy the artist; Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg; and Yancey Richardson, New York. Copyright © Zanele Muholi.
  • Type: photography
  • Rights: Biennale of Sydney
  • Medium: silver gelatin photograph
  • Edition: 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020): NIRIN

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