Their gaze follows you, questions you and confronts you.
Zanele Muholi self-identifies as a visual activist and has spent many years documenting and photographing members of the LGBTQIA+ community in Muholi’s native South Africa.
This is one of 365 self-portraits in Muholi’s series Somnyama Ngonyama, Zulu for “Hail the Dark Lioness”, a series in which Muholi portrays historical events and Muholi’s own history and ancestry.
Objects intended for other functions are transformed into headdresses, jewellery and clothing.
In Moholi’s work, two large tubes stuck through the artist’s hair can take on the appearance of regalia, of headwear for a sovereign.
A heavy chain, wound twice round Muholi’s neck, confronts us with dark chapters of history. At the same time, the chain also becomes a striking piece of jewellery, and so the object takes on another level of meaning.
Muholi redefines and shapes their own identity.
The artist has referred to their own, painful experiences. Here is Muholi speaking during an interview for the art platform Contemporary:
“My presence in my images is conversation, a dialogue — and it is a perpetual, howling protest. My body, as new as it is for me, is still ancient. It has been presented naked throughout history and so I want to take it back, determine how it is viewed and challenge how it is valued - and by whom.”