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The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is proud to present Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail The Dark Lioness, an internationally touring exhibition organized by Autograph, London and curated by Renée Mussai. The Cummer Museum will be the final venue for this exhibition in the United States.
In more than 80 self-portraits, celebrated visual activist Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) uses their body as a canvas to confront the deeply personal politics of race and representation in the visual archive. Their ongoing series Somnyama Ngonyama, which translates to ‘Hail The Dark Lioness’ from isiZulu, one of the official languages of South Africa, playfully employs the conventions of classical painting, fashion photography and the familiar tropes of ethnographic imagery to rearticulate contemporary identity politics. Each black and white self-portrait asks critical questions about social (in)justice, human rights and contested representations of the Black body.
The exhibition features photographs taken between 2012 - 2019 in cities across Europe, North America, Asia and Africa. Muholi's socially-engaged, radical brand of self-portraiture transforms found objects and quotidian materials into dramatic and historically loaded props, merging the political with the personal, aesthetics with history — often commenting on specific events in South Africa’s past, as well as urgent global concerns pertinent to our present times: scouring pads and latex gloves address themes of domestic servitude while alluding to sexual politics, cultural violence and the often-suffocating prisms of gendered identities. Rubber tires, cable ties or electrical cords invoke forms of social brutality and exploitation; sheets of plastic and polythene draw attention to environmental issues and global waste, while accessories like cowrie shells and beaded fly whisks highlight Western fascinations with clichéd, exoticized representations of African cultures and people.
until June 20, 2021
2019 Honoree: Humanitarian Award
Muholi is a visual activist and photographer born in Umlazi, Durban, and living in Johannesburg. 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’.
They (Muholi’s preferred pronoun) co-founded the Forum for Empowerment of Women (FEW) in 2002, and in 2009 founded Inkanyiso (www.inkanyiso.org), a forum for queer and visual (activist) media. They continue to train and co-facilitate photography workshops for young women in the townships.
Muholi studied Advanced Photography at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg, and in 2009 completed an MFA: Documentary Media at Ryerson University, Toronto. In 2013 they became an Honorary Professor at the University of the Arts/Hochschule für Künste Bremen.
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