Julile I, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2016


Limited edition

Photography
Silver gelatin print
Edition of 8 + 2AP


CM H 65.8 W 100

IN H 25.91 W 39.37

Certificate of authenticity - Signed by artist



Julile I, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2016

With the series Somnyama Ngonyama, I have decided to turn the camera on myself. In contrast to my life-long project of documenting members of my black LGBTI community in South Africa and beyond, one in which I normally have the privilege of witnessing participants’ presentation of themselves according to their own self-image, with this new work I have created portraits in which I am both participant and image-maker.

Somnyama Ngonyama (meaning ‘Hail, the Dark Lioness’) is an unflinchingly personal approach I have taken as a visual activist to confronting the politics of race and pigment in the photographic archive. It is a statement of self-presentation through portraiture. The entire series also relates to the concept of MaID (‘My Identity’) or, read differently, ‘maid’, the quotidian and demeaning name given to all subservient black women in South Africa.

Experimenting with different characters and archetypes, I have portrayed myself in highly stylised fashion using the performative and expressive language of theatre. The black face and its details become the focal point, forcing the viewer to question their desire to gaze at images of my black figure.

The visual variety depicted in the series references the histories of black and white fashion photography and of black and white portraiture. Each and every photo captured in this series is a commentary on a specific event in South Africa’s political history, from the advent of the mining industry, to the fame or infamy of the ‘Black Madonna’, to the recent massacre of miners at Marikana; from family to society and back again.

Zanele Muholi

Muholi is a visual activist and photographer born in Umlazi, Durban, and living in Johannesburg. Muholi’s self-proclaimed mission is ‘to re-write a black queer and trans visual history of South Africa for the world to know of our resistance and existence at the height of hate crimes in SA and beyond’.

Muholi co-founded the Forum for Empowerment of Women (FEW) in 2002, and in 2009 founded Inkanyiso, a forum for queer and visual (activist) media. They continue to train and co-facilitate photography workshops for young women in the townships.

Muholi studied Advanced Photography at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg, and in 2009 completed an MFA: Documentary Media at Ryerson University, Toronto. In 2013 they became an Honorary Professor at the University of the Arts/Hochschule für Künste Bremen. 

Awards and accolades received include the Rees Visionary Award by Amref Health Africa (2019); a fellowship from the Royal Photographic Society, UK (2018); France’s Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2017); the Mbokodo Award in the category of Visual Arts (2017); ICP Infinity Award for Documentary and Photojournalism (2016); Africa'Sout! Courage and Creativity Award (2016); Outstanding International Alumni Award from Ryerson University (2016); Fine Prize for an emerging artist at the 2013 Carnegie International; Prince Claus Award (2013); Index on Censorship - Freedom of Expression art award (2013); and Casa Africa award for best female photographer and Fondation Blachère award at Les Rencontres de Bamako biennial of African photogra...

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Stevenson

Stevenson has an international exhibition programme with a particular focus on the region. Founded in 2003, the gallery has spaces in Cape Town and Johannesburg, and an office in Amsterdam.

It is jointly owned by its 13 directors: Federica Angelucci, Marc Barben, Lerato Bereng, Joost Bosland, David Brodie, Sinazo Chiya, Andrew da Conceicao, Jessica Honeyman, Lanese Jaftha, Sisipho Ngodwana, Sophie Perryer, Alexander Richards and Michael Stevenson.

Stevenson participates in Art Basel, Frieze London, Paris Photo and Art Basel Miami Beach. 


Cape Town, South Africa
Buchanan Building
160 Sir Lowry Road
Woodstock 7925

Johannesburg, South Africa
46 7th Avenue
Parktown North 2193

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Curated by Stevenson

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Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness

Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness, 2018

Zanele Muholi

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