Zanele Muholi

Photographer and visual activist, Zanele Muholi, presents three bodies of work exploring the politics of race, gender and sexuality

By Biennale of Sydney

22nd Biennale of Sydney: NIRIN

Sindile II, Room 206 Fjord Hotel, Berlin (2017) by Zanele MuholiBiennale of Sydney

About the artist

Zanele Muholi
Born in Durban, South Africa
Lives and works in Durban and Johannesburg, South Africa

Zabantu I, Boston Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

"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 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." 

– Zanele Muholi

For the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, visual activist and photographer Zanele Muholi presents three bodies of work that look at the politics of race, gender and sexuality:

Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness features self-portraits taken in the many countries and cities Muholi has visited across the world.

Faces and Phases is a commemoration and celebration of black lesbians, Transgender individuals and gender non-conforming people from South Africa and beyond.

Brave Beauties is an ongoing series featuring Transwomen that acknowledges the radical transformation of South African society, even though many shadows remain, especially in terms of crimes against the LGBTQI community.

Sebenzile, Parktown Sebenzile, Parktown, Zanele Muholi, 2016, From the collection of: Biennale of Sydney
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Bester I, Mayotte Bester I, Mayotte, Zanele Muholi, 2015, From the collection of: Biennale of Sydney
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MaID IV, New York MaID IV, New York, Zanele Muholi, 2018, From the collection of: Biennale of Sydney
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Experimenting with different characters and archetypes in these photos, Muholi portrays themself in high contrast to ensure the black face and its details become the focal point, "forcing the viewer to question their desire to gaze at images of my black figure".  

Navigate through the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia galleries and explore the works of Zanele Muholi.

Nomalandi Wenda, Parktown Nomalandi Wenda, Parktown (2016) by Zanele MuholiBiennale of Sydney

MCA artist talk: Zanele Muholi
00:00

Listen to the artist speak of their work and the community to which they belong in this MCA artist talk.

Credits: Story

Somnyama Ngonyama series, 2015–18, wallpaper
Brave Beauties Selection, 2019, wallpaper
Faces and Phases Selection, 2006–18, silver gelatin photographs; edition of 8 + 2AP 
Presentation at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney was made possible with generous assistance from the Sherman Foundation. Public programming relating to this project was made possible with generous support from the Naomi Milgrom Foundation. Courtesy the artist; Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa; and Yancey Richardson, New York

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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