Muholi’s pic­ture sto­ries of vi­o­lence go to Am­s­ter­dam

Artist’s work calls out scourge of ho­mo­pho­bia

Sowetan - - Time Out Art/Film - By Pa­tience Bam­balele

As global ten­sions es­ca­late op­pres­sion and limit hu­man rights, pho­tog­ra­phers re­spond by chal­leng­ing those artis­tic con­ven­tions.

One per­son who does that suc­cess­fully is vis­ual ac­tivist and pho­tog­ra­pher Zanele Muholi. Born in Dur­ban in 1972, Muholi’s pro­file as a vis­ual sto­ry­teller is es­tab­lished both lo­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally.

Her ded­i­ca­tion to raising aware­ness about is­sues af­fect­ing the les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der com­mu­nity has won her a se­ries of awards. These in­clude Che­va­lier de l’Or­dre des Arts et des Let­tres, the Mbokodo Award, ICP In­fin­ity Award for Documentary and Pho­to­jour­nal­ism, Africa Sout! Courage and Cre­ativ­ity Award, and Out­stand­ing In­ter­na­tional Alumni Award from Ry­er­son Univer­sity in Canada, among oth­ers.

The pho­tog­ra­pher is cur­rently par­tic­i­pat­ing in a group ex­hi­bi­tion called A Sheet of Pa­per Can Be­come a Knife.

The in­ter­na­tional group ex­hi­bi­tion opened on Tues­day in Am­s­ter­dam. A Sheet of Pa­per Can Be­come a Knife fea­tures works of 10 in­ter­na­tional artists from dif­fer­ent coun­tries whose work tack­les the threat of vi­o­lence world­wide.

Ac­cord­ing to cu­ra­tor Se­lene Wendt, the ex­hi­bi­tion is in­spired by a poem by Tser­ing Woeser that sug­gests any­thing can be­come a weapon.

“A Sheet of Pa­per Can Be­come a Knife con­sid­ers that con­cept and how this can hap­pen with­out warn­ing or rea­son.”

Muholi’s work aims to es­tab­lish an ar­chive of les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual, trans­gen­der, in­ter­sex and queer (LGB­TIQ+) in­di­vid­u­als, to re-write a black queer and trans-vis­ual his­tory of South Africa. The work fea­tures en­tan­gled his­to­ries of vi­o­lence and op­pres­sion con­veyed and a col­lec­tive nar­ra­tive of so­cial in­jus­tice.

“The col­lec­tion is as much a man­i­festo of re­sis­tance as it is an au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal, artis­tic state­ment.

“The works re­flect on the jour­ney, ex­plore my own im­age and pos­si­bil­i­ties as a black woman in to­day’s global so­ci­ety,” she says.

Just a day be­fore she flew to Am­s­ter­dam on Sun­day, she launched her book ti­tled Som­nyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Li­on­ess.

The pho­to­graphs high­light the stigma of ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity that of­ten lead to rape, vi­o­lence and mur­der in town­ships.

She says: “I am pro­duc­ing this pho­to­graphic doc­u­ment to en­cour­age peo­ple to be brave enough to oc­cupy spa­ces, brave enough to cre­ate with­out fear of be­ing vil­i­fied ... to teach peo­ple about our his­tory, to re­think what his­tory is all about, to re­claim it for our­selves, to en­cour­age peo­ple to use artis­tic tools such as cam­eras as weapons to fight back.”

In her work, the hu­man form is ren­dered non-ob­jec­tive, and a sin­gu­lar ex­pe­ri­ence is con­veyed through spo­radic im­agery. She has also ex­hib­ited in At­lanta (2018), Not­ting­ham (2018), Stock­holm (2018), Zürich, and New York (2016).

/ STEVEN­SON GALLERY

Zanele Muholi chal­lenges con­ven­tion.

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