Zanele Muholi Shortlisted for Deutche Börse Photography Prize

Article by Lerato Dumse

Tick Tock for Deutsche Börse 2015 Prize

Exhibtion view, Zanele Muholi at The Photographers' GalleryWith less than a week remaining before we are introduced to the winner of the renowned Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2015. Predictions are still pouring in and opinions are shared from far and wide. Everyone wants to see their favourite photographer win and the shortlist has kept art circles and media talking since the announcement was made late last year.

South Africa is home to two of the nominees, Zanele Muholi for her photobook Faces and Phases 2006-14 and Mikhael Subotzky who collaborated with UK’s Patrick Waterhouse on a book that focuses on Ponte City in Johannesburg. The shortlist also features Viviane Sassen who is nominated for an exhibition titled Umbra, held at the Nederlands Fotomuseum, as well as Nikolay Bakharev, a photographer in his 60s, who captured Russian bathers in the 80s.

In the 18 years of the competition’s existence, this is the first time that an African and a South African female is shortlisted. Muholi emphasises that this nomination is a game changer and will open doors for other photographers and artists who are members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex community. The prize was established by The Photographers’ Gallery with the aim of promoting contemporary photography and was first known as Citigroup, while Deutsche Börse has sponsored the £30,000 competition since 2005.

Zanele MuholiBorn in Durban KwaZulu Natal, Muholi is a visual activist, advocating for the lives, rights and safety of the LGBTI community in South Africa; with a specific focus on black lesbians. Having embarked on a journey of archiving and documenting the lives of LGBTI people in her surroundings, she was able to produce a publication from her lifetime project of black and white portraits of African lesbians and transgender individuals.

Faces and Phases participants have fast gained a reputation for their ability to confront the camera. Muholi has also become the second black female (from four female nominees) after Lorna Simpson from the USA, to be a shortlisted recipient of the prize. 2010 was the first and last year to be dominated by females, and the only year won by a female since DB took over the prize.

On May 26, two days before the DBPP ceremony, Muholi will host her much anticipated conversation with Bidisha, from the BBC Arts. This multi award winning South African has received many astonished reactions from London based artists, especially those with Caribbean and African roots about her exhibition, talk and nomination at the Photographers Gallery.

Exhibition View: photos by Zanele MuholiMuholi’s work focuses on Post-Apartheid politics of the LGBTI community. She stresses the fact that her work is concerned about creating a historical document that makes this community visible. Identifying as a black lesbian herself, Muholi’s work shines a light on both the love and tribulations experienced by members of her community.

Maintaining her cool composure, she insists the nomination is not for her alone, but includes participants featured in her work. Muholi returns to London after opening her solo exhibition titled, Isibonelo/Evidence at Brooklyn Museum in New York City and is open until November 1 2015. She is also involved with Look3, a summer photo festival opening on June 10 2015 in the US.

Illustrations above: Exhibition view of works by Zanele Muholi at The Photographers’ Gallery, London; Self-portrait, courtesy of Zanele Muholi; Exhibition view of works by Zanele Muholi at Brooklyn Museum, New York.

Zanele Muholi: Isibonelo/Evidence

Press release by Brooklyn Museum

Exhibition View: photos by Zanele Muholi
Zanele Muholi (South African, born 1972). Faces and Phases installed at dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel, Germany, 2012. (Photo: © Anders Sune Berg)

Brooklyn Museum Presents Zanele Muholi: Isibonelo/Evidence

The largest U.S. Museum Exhibition of the South African Photographer’s Work, May 1, 2015, through November 1, 2015.

Zanele Muholi: Isibonelo/Evidence is the most comprehensive museum exhibition to date in the United States devoted to the critically acclaimed South African artist and activist Zanele Muholi. Through her work in photography, video, and installation, Muholi has dedicated herself to creating visibility for the black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) communities of South Africa.

This presentation, which includes eighty-seven pieces created between 2007 and 2014, features the renowned Faces and Phases series, an ongoing portrait project that documents the breadth of identities contained within this community. It also presents Muholi’s video Being Scene, which focuses on intimacy and daily life within her circle. Also featured is the Weddings series, which captures in photographs and video the joyful same-sex unions of her friends.

Born in 1972 in Durban, South Africa, the youngest of five children, Muholi is a tireless community organizer as well as a respected artist committed to sharing the voices of the South African LGBTI community with the wider world. In the Faces and Phases series, in particular, she uses firsthand accounts to speak to the experience of living in a country that constitutionally protects the rights of LGBTI people but often fails to defend them from targeted violence. Muholi is the recipient of several important international awards, including the 2013 Carnegie International Fine Prize.

Zanele Muholi studied at the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg in 2003 and held her first solo exhibition at the Johannesburg Art Gallery in 2004. In 2009, she was awarded her Master of Fine Arts degree from Ryerson University in Toronto, where her thesis mapped the visual history of black lesbian identity and politics in post-apartheid South Africa. She began her career as a photographer for an online magazine covering LGBTI issues in Africa. She has researched and documented the stories of hate crimes against the gay community since 2002.

Muholi launched her visual activism with her first solo exhibition, Visual Sexuality: Only Half the Picture, at the Johannesburg Art Gallery in 2004. Since then she has exhibited in Nigeria, Vienna, Cape Town, Milan, London, and Amsterdam and has been included in group exhibitions in Toronto, the Netherlands, Atlanta, England, São Paulo, Lagos, Rome, and various other locations. In 2009, she founded Inkanyiso, a nonprofit organization concerned with visual activism for and on behalf of the LGBTI community. In 2010, she co-directed the documentary Difficult Love, which has been shown around the world. She exhibited Faces and Phases at the Ryerson Image Center in 2014.

Zanele Muholi: Isibonelo/Evidence is organized by Catherine J. Morris, Sackler Family Curator for the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, with Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum.

Exhibition support is provided by Tracey, Phillip, and Enoch Riese

Related Links

Pride and prejudice: How Zanele Muholi documents South Africa’s LGBTI community – an article by BBC Arts, April 2015
Brooklyn Museum Presents Photographer Zanele Muholi’s Isibonelo/Evidence – an article by By T’kay/DapperQ, April 2015

Zanele Muholi at The Photographers Gallery in London

Zanele Muholi at The Photographers' Gallery
Exhibition view; snapshot by Feminine Moments

Zanele Muholi at The Photographers Gallery in London

The Photographers’ Gallery showcase of Muholi’s work is part of a broader exhibition presenting the works of the four shortlistees of the prestigious Deutsche Borse Photography Prize.

Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2015
17 April until 7 June at The Photographers’ Gallery, London, UK.

There is a difference...
There is a difference between being dying and being killed… Detail of an installation by Zanele Muholi, Photographers’ Gallery, London 2015; snapshot by Feminine Moments.

Zanele Muholi and Inkanyiso

Zanele Muholi is a visual activist documenting the lesbian and queer communities in the South African townships. She makes photos of the individual queer women, their intimate and sensual moments of their deviant love and the funerals of the young women who died as victims of hate crimes (see the above list).

In a video Zanele explains about her work as an visual activist: ‘any person who is interested in learning is welcome to learn how to take photographs. I provide cameras as long as the person will be able to document what then will become a contributions towards Inkanyiso which is the organization that I formed. One cannot do these major projects alone,which is why I invited people to come on board and work with me. And it means that it is not lonely anymore. – I started this project called Inkanyiso to ensure that people wo are featuring in my photographs get a platform to share their own lives and work.’

BBC Arts about Zanele Muholi’s new book:

“Zanele Muholi is being recognised for Faces and Phases 2006-2014. Published in book form by Steidl, it’s an epic and beautiful project comprising portraits of more than 200 black lesbian women and trans men. The black and white images have an eternal gravity, serious and dignified – the absolute opposite of sensational – with the sitters usually at a three quarter angle, yet looking directly into the camera, expressions unsmiling and level.” – BBC Arts

Exhibtion view, Zanele Muholi at The Photographers' Gallery
Exhibtion view, Zanele Muholi’s new book Faces and Phases 2006-2014 in the foreground of the photo,The Photographers’ Gallery, April 2015; snapshot by Feminine Moments

Related Link

Pride and prejudice: How Zanele Muholi documents South Africa’s LGBTI community – an article by BBC Arts, April 2015
Brooklyn Museum Presents Photographer Zanele Muholi’s Isibonelo/Evidence – an article by By T’kay/DapperQ, April 2015


Video – ‘Zanele Muholi’ (2013)

Zanele Muholi

Directed by Katherine Fairfax Wright, Malika Zouhali-Worrall and Zanele Muholi (2013).

Award-winning photographer Zanele Muholi, who describes herself as a “visual activist,” has spent years documenting the lives of black lesbians and transgender people in South Africa. This video is dedicated to the memory of Duduzile Zozo, who was brutally raped and murdered in Thokoza, Gauteng Province in South Africa on June 30, 2013.