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Zanele Muholi

Work / Photography

The photographer archiving South Africa’s black lesbian community

South Africa might have been the continent’s first country to legalise same-sex marriage, but its LGBT community remains the target of hate crimes. Assault is common, and so-called “corrective rape” continues.

Photographer and self-dubbed “visual activist” Zanele Muholi’s strikingly honest portraits of South Africa’s black lesbian and trans community take a closer look at the personal identity of her LGBTQ subjects and more broadly at gay politics. Challenging the nationwide stigma around being gay and the lingering idea that to be gay is “un-African” Zanele’s portraits bring the viewer eye to eye with the subject – and with their prejudice. Spanning hundreds of portraits, Zanele’s work exists as an archive of a community standing up to oppression.

Born in Durban in 1972, Zanele completed an advanced photo course at Market Photo Workshop, Johannesberg in 2003 before going on to hold her first solo show, Visual Sexuality: Only Half The Picture, a year later at Johannesburg Art Gallery. In 2009, the photographer completed her masters at Ryerson University, Toronto, which considered black lesbian identity and politics in post-Apartheid South Africa. That same year, Zanele founded Inkanyiso, a not-for-profit organisation focused visual activism. In 2015, Zanele’s work was shortlisted for the Deutsche Borshe Photography prize and displayed at The Photographer’s Gallery, London. To date, she has published four books and exhibited her work in countless solo shows.

Zanele’s work will be exhibited by the Yancey Richardson Gallery at The Photography Show 2017, presented by AIPAD, New York, March 30 — April 2.

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