Bhekisisa, Sakouli beach, Mayotte, from the series Somnyama Ngonyama
Artist and activist Zanele Muholi sees their practice as a form of advocacy and resistance, channelling their portraiture and moving image work into a deep engagement with black queer and trans visual history in South Africa. They are acutely aware of the power of self-presentation and the potential political impact of portraiture. Muholi’s photographic work is a forceful critique of the racism that underscores photographic history as it pertains to the representation of Black people. Alert to the power imbalance that often defines the relationship between photographer and photographed, Muholi assertively returns the agency over the image to the subject. In the series Somnyama Ngonyama that subject is the artist themselves. The agency, in this instance, is theirs.
Of this body of work, Muholi has said:
Somnyama Ngonyama (meaning ‘Hail, the Dark Lioness’) is an unflinchingly personal approach I have taken as a visual activist to confronting the politics of race and pigment in the photographic archive. It is a statement of self-presentation through portraiture. The entire series also relates to the concept of MaID (‘My Identity’) or, read differently, ‘maid’, the quotidian and demeaning name given to all subservient black women in South Africa.
gelatin silver photograph
52.0 x 100.0 cm
Signature & date
Signed Certificate of authenticity l.l. corner, black fibre-tipped pen "Zanele Muholi". Not dated.
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors' Program 2020
Not on display
© Zanele Muholi