HOLAA Loves: Zanele Muholi’s Somnyama Ngonyama Exhibit

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On Nov 21, 2015

We decided to get some art and culture in our lives and went to the Zanele Muholi (@MuholiZanele) Somnyama Ngonyama exhibit in Johannesburg. Her long legacy of photography continued in this exhibt she presents black and white self-portraits taken while travelling in South Africa, America and Europe, Somnyama Ngonyama (meaning ‘Hail, the Dark Lioness’) confronts the politics of race and pigment in the photographic archive, while commenting on specific events in South Africa’s political history, such as the Marikana massacre.

The series references black and white portraiture and fashion photography, with Muholi dressed in different outfits as she takes on various personas. She writes:

Experimenting with different characters and archetypes, I have portrayed myself in highly stylised fashion using the performative and expressive language of theatre. The black face and its details become the focal point, forcing the viewer to question their desire to gaze at images of my black figure. By exaggerating the darkness of my skin tone, I’m reclaiming my blackness, which I feel is continuously performed by the privileged other.

Along with these self-portraits, the exhibition features a series of 12 photographs from Muholi’s ongoing essay titled Brave Beauties. Continuing her renowned practice of photographing the LGBTI community, this collection of black and white images is a celebratory look at the body and the politics of expression.