Zanele Muholi
Photo courtesy of Stevenson Johannesburg and Cape Town
Photo courtesy of Stevenson Johannesburg and Cape Town

b. 1972, Umlazi, South Africa

Zanele Muholi addresses issues of race, feminism, and homosexuality as both an activist and an artist. She is a founder of the Forum for the Empowerment of Women, a non-profit organization based in Johannesburg that provides social and political support to black lesbians and transsexuals, and has worked as a photographer and reporter for Behind the Mask, an online magazine covering lesbian and gay issues in Africa.

Muholi completed the advanced photography course at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, South Africa, in 2004. Her photographs frequently take the black female body as their subject, revealing a closeness and familiarity that is often overlooked in conventional documentary photography. Her sensual portrayals of physicality explore gay sexuality and intimacy as well as the emotional displacement and marginalization among this population in South Africa. Muholi has also produced two documentaries addressing these issues: Enraged by a Picture (2005) and Difficult Love (2010).

Solo exhibitions of Muholi’s work include Inkanyiso, Stevenson, Johannesburg (2011); and Only Half the Picture, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town (2006, traveled). Group exhibitions include Like A Virgin…, Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos (2009); Rebelle: Art and Feminism 1969–2009, Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem, The Netherlands (2009); and Body Work, Le Case D’Arte, Milan (2008). Muholi was the recipient of the Prix Casa Africa, Rencontres de Bamako (2009); the 1st BHP Billiton/University of the Witwatersrand Visual Arts Fellowship, Johannesburg (2006); and the Tollman Award for the Visual Arts, South Africa (2005). She also completed residencies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, and Thami Mnyele Foundation, Amsterdam (both 2009), and participated in Documenta 13, Kassel, Germany (2012). Muholi lives and works in Johannesburg.