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Zanele Muholi: Intersectionality Represented Through Art and Activism

Self-exploration and expression through contemporary visuals

Mfana (London), 2014 Silver gelatin print 11 3/4 × 9 1/4 in | 29.8 × 23.5 cm Edition of 8. © Copyright 2015, STEVENSON. All rights reserved.

When it comes to capturing the emotions,messages, and revolutionizing voices of a people often unheard, Zanele Muholi (born in South Africa in 1972) is the prominent architect behind these images. Muholi strives to capture the many Black LGBTQ faces who have experienced violence and discrimination within South Africa for over the past two decades. The goal of her pieces is to shed light on the overtly unjust treatment of those within the community who just want to simply exist and be accepted for who they are. Muholi represents the voices of South Africans who have faced harsh realities.

Zanele Muholi has a special gift for capturing the humanity and beauty of people by taking on a unique approach when it comes to activism and forming a clear message behind it. Muholis’s Black and white images drive their purpose to the heart of the work: Hope. If there is one thing that can be assured and witnessed through this visual craft, it’s that the artist has hope, an active voice and reason to enact such change.

Creating movement through stilled photographs that scream, Muholi targets the societal, political, and historical moments of South Africa with her images so that the meaning isn’t down played or lost. Muholi’s objective is to put pieces in front of viewers that make them feel.

Somnyama III, Paris, 2014. From the series Somnyama Ngonyama, gelatin silver print, 33 x 24 1/2 inches ©YANCEY RICHARDSON

In 2006, Zanele Muholi embarked on a journey to showcase the South African queer community in positive imagery that captures the existence and beauty of all faces that represent human beings who continue to fight for the right to exist peacefully. Her response was to create the “Faces and Phases” ongoing series to display their revolutionary drive and to vocalize the intent behind each set of eyes photographed. Muholi’s ability to successfully illustrate the window that lives in everyone’s eyes makes her work so unique and captivating. The ability to connect consumers and viewers to art provides a level of openness and understanding that is easy to lose in portrait work. Muholi gives us the soul, nature, being and expression in honest, vulnerable and striking images.

Zanele Muholi is a visual poet with the ability to articulately express all subjects of feeling, thought, interpretation and art, and has truly mastered revolutionary expression. With her use of Black and white contrast, Muholi has highlighted the deepest textures and tones to cultivate and capture the boldness of her muses and their stance on existing.

Zanele Muholi, Faces, and Phases, 2016-18, silver gelatin prints, Courtesy of Stevenson Gallery



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