A public garden & cultural center

Zanele Muholi

Outcasts: Women in the Wilderness
Glyndor Gallery | April 8–July 9, 2017


Pictured above left:
Muholi, Muholi, Amsterdam, 2014

Pictured above right: 
Thulani I, Paris, 2014

Gelatin silver prints
© Zanele Muholi; courtesy Yancey Richardson, New York, NY

For more than a decade, the visual activist Zanele Muholi has dedicated her photographic work to representing LGBTI people in South Africa. Her work confronts racism and honors intersectional black LGBTI communities. Outcasts presents three photographs from the Somnyama Ngonyama series, meaning “Hail, the Dark Lioness,” a deeply personal portrayal that captures an introspective look into Muholi’s subjective truths and strong community bonds. Muholi embraces a timeless complexity and resilience, capturing intimate moments of stillness, revealed in black queer bodies who have historically been subjugated through violence, trauma and hardship.

These self-portraits also represent the artist’s personal confrontation with the politics of race in the history of photography. Experimenting with characters and archetypes, Muholi employs the vocabulary of theater and the stylized artifice of fashion photography, challenging the culturally dominant images of black women that permeate the media today. The heightened black-and-white contrast of Zibuyile I illuminates Muholi’s stature and knotted-hair crown. She defies the historical politicization of black hairstyles, reclaiming them by embracing natural looks and embellishing her hair with fabrics and found objects.

These self-reflective, gender-fluid expressions proffer a momentous possibility for reshaping black, diasporic, queer intimacies in the global mainstream market. Both Muholi and Nancy Spero act as feminist heroines for outsiders on the margins—radicalizing the gravity of feminist and queer assertions for autonomy, expression and self-documentation.

Zanele Muholi is a South African photographer and visual activist whose work illuminates black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities, both in her home country and abroad. She documents the experience of the African queer community as a record for future generations. She captures moments in this journey without negativity or focusing on the prevalent violence, and she portrays individuals and the community to encourage unity.

Her work has been exhibited widely, including in shows at the Brooklyn Museum; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati, OH; Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA; and Kimura Gallery, University of Alaska, Anchorage. Her awards and residencies include the ICP Infinity Award; the Fine Prize, Carnegie International; Light Work residency, Syracuse; and a residency at La Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris.

Pictured above:
Zibuyile I, Syracuse, 2015
Gelatin silver print
© Zanele Muholi; courtesy Yancey Richardson, New York, NY

Learn more about the artist here

The Arts at Wave Hill are supported by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc.; Michael J. Shannon; Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; New York Community Trust Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; The Pollock-Krasner Foundation; The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation; and by the Cathy and Stephen Weinroth Commissioning Fund for the Arts.