The Evidence of Things Not Seen, a reference in part to James Baldwin’s book of the same title, speaks to the intangible but pervasive nature of identity. Using works from the JAG collection exclusively by artists of colour, this exhibition looks at the performance of gendered and queer identities in contemporary South African art.
"I’ve always had a complex relationship with the politics of representation and how to image other people with honesty. Being aware of how I would like to be seen/imaged makes it easier to understand elements of how I would like to represent myself. I choose to use my own body within my work because I am exploring elements of my identity and how these impact my relationship with myself and society in general" Nandipha Mntambo
Although South Africa's post-apartheid constitution was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, and South Africa was the fifth country in the world, and the first - and, to date, only - in Africa, to legalise same-sex marriage, prejudice is still entrenched in most communities outside the major cities.
"Every individual in my photographs has her own or his own story to tell. But sadly we come from spaces in which most black people never had that opportunity. If they had it at all, their voices were told by other people. So there’s the whole thing of being spoken for” - said Muholi in a recent interview with Bim Adewunmi.
"Gay men have always reserved some space for fun and celebration of who they are. Drag queens, celebrated in Imtyibilizi xa yomile, do the best work with regards to celebrating difference and showing pride in being the minority. However, to some this doesn't come easy - the performance becomes a weapon through which they fight the heavy baggage that comes with being gay" Nicholas Hlobo
Images from Zanele Muholi's series Faces and Phases:
© Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York.