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Zanele Muholi

Zanele Muholi


Visual activist Zanele Muholi was born in 1972 in Umlazi township in Durban, South Africa; she lives in Johannesburg.

Prior to her photographic journeys into black female sexualities and genders in Africa, she worked as a human/lesbian rights activist, raising the many issues facing black lesbian women in South Africa. She worked as a reporter and photographer for Behind the Mask, an LGBTI website, and in 2002 she co-founded the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW), a black lesbian organization based in Gauteng, dedicated to providing a safe space for women loving women to meet and organize. In 2009 she founded Inkaniyiso, an organization that deals with visual arts, activism, media and advocacy.

Muholi completed an advanced photography course at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg, in 2003 and held her first solo exhibition at the Johannesburg Art Gallery in 2004. She graduated from Ryerson university in Toronto with an MFA: Documentary Media in 2009, her thesis mapping the visual history of black lesbian identity and politics in post-apartheid South Africa. She has won a number of prestigious awards for her work including a Jean-Pail Blachère award and the Casa Africa award for best female photographer living in Africa at the 2009 Rencontres de Bamako African Photography Biennial; the Index on Censorship – Freedom of Expression arts award (2013); the Fine Prize for an emerging artist at the 2013 Carnegie International; and a Prince Claus Award (2013).

Muholi’s work has been featured in important exhibitions including the 55th Venice Biennale, Documenta 13, the 29th Sao Paulo Biennial, Les Rencontres d’Arles, France, and Les Rencontres de Bamako African Photography Biennial, Mali, and at institutions including the V & A Museum, London; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Huis Marseille, Amsterdam; Schwules Museum, Berlin; Wits Art Museum, Johannesburg; the Walther Collection, Ulm; Menil Collection, Houston; and Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Modena, Italy.