Zanele Muholi

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A South African person photographed by Zanele Muholi
Photographer: Zanele Muholi South African artist Zanele Muholi documents LGBTIQ+ lives

Time Out says

South African filmmaker and photographer Zanele Muholi documents the fight for LGBTIQ+ rights at home and abroad

South African filmmaker and photographer Zanele Muholi’s work is intrinsically wrapped up in the fight for the rights of the LGBTIQ+ people whose lives she documents. The challenges and injustices they still face are at stark odds with the dream of equality, post-Apartheid.

The MCA’s celebration of her proud and powerful visual art encompasses three bodies of ongoing work. Faces and Phases features black-and-white portraits of lesbian, trans and gender non-conforming people. Muholi began the series months before the Civil Union Act legalised same-sex marriage in South Africa in 2006. She has captured some 500-plus people since. 

Brave Beauties zooms in on a stunning series of trans women, particularly those who have competed in community-based beauty pageants. Marking South Africa’s 20th anniversary of democracy in 2014, the work highlights the stark contrast for these women who are far too often the subject of violent crime.  

And pointing the camera at herself, Somnyama Ngonyama documents Muholi’s many travels across the globe in the line of duty.

“I’m producing this photographic document to encourage people to be brave enough to occupy space, brave enough to create without fear of being vilified,” she says. “To teach people about our history, to re-think what history is all about, to re-claim it for ourselves, to encourage people to use artistic tools such as cameras as weapons to fight back.” 

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