Zanele Muholi was born in Durban, in 1972, and lives in Johannesburg. She co-founded the Forum for Empowerment of Women in 2002, and in 2009 founded Inkanyiso, a forum for queer and visual (activist) media. Muholi’s self-proclaimed mission is ‘to re-write a black queer and trans visual history of South Africa for the world to know of our resistance and existence at the height of hate crimes in SA and beyond’. Muholi studied Advanced Photography at the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg, and in 2009 completed an MFA: Documentary Media at Ryerson University, Toronto.
“I always think to myself, if you don’t see your community, you have to create it. I can’t be dependent on other people to do it for us.’ It is a continuing resistance ‘because we cannot be denied existence. This is about our lives, and if queer history, trans history, if politics of blackness and self-representation are so key in our lives, we just cannot sit down and not document and bring it forth.”
Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness is the long-awaited monograph from one of the most powerful visual activists of our time. The book features over ninety of Muholi’s evocative self-portraits, each image drafted from material props in Muholi’s immediate environment. These portraits reflect the journey, self-image, and possibilities of a black woman in today’s global society. A powerfully arresting collection of work, Muholi’s radical statements of identity, race, and resistance are a direct response to contemporary and historical racisms. As Muholi states, “I am producing this photographic document to encourage individuals in my community to be brave enough to occupy spaces—brave enough to create without fear of being vilified. . . . To teach people about our history, to rethink what history is all about, to reclaim it for ourselves—to encourage people to use artistic tools such as cameras as weapons to fight back.”
With more than twenty written contributions from curators, poets, and authors, alongside luxurious tritone reproductions of Muholi’s images, Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness is as much a manifesto of resistance as it is an autobiographical, artistic statement.
Nevahblackdown believes the image and the intention behind the image are what makes for an extremely powerful combination. Zanele Muholi is activism personified. Both her art and her character bring to the surface the awakening of something more than activism, she takes it to a place of truth. Within each image is a story that will and can transform the place where stubborn thought rests. We at Nevahblackdown honor Zanele Muholi and her work!