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.

Book: Faces and Phases (2006-14) by Zanele Muholi

A New Fine Art Photography Book:

Faces and Phases (2006-14)

by Zanele Muholi
368 Pages
17 x 24 cm
ISBN 978-3-86930-807-4
1. Edition 09/2014

Shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2015

In Faces and Phases 2006–14, Zanele Muholi embarks on a journey of “visual activism” to ensure black queer and transgender visibility. Despite South Africa’s progressive Constitution and twenty years of democracy, black lesbians and transgender men remain the targets of brutal hate crimes and so-called corrective rapes. Taken over the past eight years, the more than 250 portraits in this book, accompanied by moving testimonies, present a compelling statement about the lives and struggles of these individuals. They also comprise an unprecedented and invaluable archive: marking, mapping and preserving an often invisible community for posterity.