Zanele Muholi
(Umlazi, Durban, South Africa, 1972)

Muholi Muholi, Room 107 Day Inn Hotel, Burlington, Vermont, 2017

Silver gelatin print
86,5 x 60,5 cm
Ed 1/8 of an edition of 8 + 2 AP
[Photo: Copyright Zanele Muholi. Courtesy Stevenson, Amsterdam/ Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York]

Zanele Muholi is co-founder in 2002 of the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW), an organization of lesbian women of color that offers a safe space for them to meet. In her research this artist focuses on gender, sexuality, and race issues, especially paying attention to lesbian women of color who in Africa are often murdered, raped, rejected.

Muholi Muholi, Room 107 Day Inn Hotel, Burlington, Vermont is part of the photographic series of 365 self-portraits entitled Somnyama Ngonyama (Acclaim the Black Lioness) in which the artist, for a whole year, portrayed herself. In the title of every photograph Muholi also includes the name of the place in the United States where it was taken, as if in a sort of diary of her life that year. In every shot she poses as a lesbian woman of color who makes eye contact with the viewer, revealing an unshakeable look of strength, self-conscience, and determination. By reserving the right to occupy the scene with her own body, which is inevitably political, she explores themes such as racism, Eurocentrism, feminism, and sexual politics, stressing the need to decolonialize the imaginary, historically monitored and directed by a Western, white, male, and heterosexual vision.

Zanele Muholi studied Advanced Photography at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg, and in 2009 they completed an MFA: Documentary Media at Ryerson University, Toronto. In 2013 Muholi became an Honorary Professor at the University of the Arts/Hochschule für Künste Bremen. Awards and accolades received include the Spectrum International Prize for Photography (2020); France’s Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2017); ICP Infinity Award for Documentary and Photojournalism (2016). Muholi’s work has been exhibited in international group shows such as Documenta 13, the 59th Venice Biennale, the South African Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale, and the 29th São Paulo Biennale. Solo exhibitions have taken place at important institutions including the Tate Modern, London; Norval Foundation, Cape Town; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires; Brooklyn Museum, New York.