Zanele Muholi south african visual artist
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Zanele Muholi
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December 6, 2022
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Zanele Muholi: the power of reclaiming imagery

Zanele Muholi is a South African artist and activist that changed black south African queerness through visual exploration.

Born during the apartheid regime and its oppressiveness against black and queer people, Zanele Muholi sure is a product of that environment. They are focusing on the South African queer and their depiction through history. Sometimes through self-portraiture as a response to the artist's current events or personal experiences. 

Predominantly focused on how the community was portrayed and echoing an anthropologic depiction, the violence is still very much present against the LGBTQIA community. Simple portraits but very touching and intensely political. 

Their figures are captured audience captures and see their figures, and they look back with a strong and interpelling gaze, almost defying. Strong characters and messages are taking a stance for the gender non-conforming and trans community.

Coming from a poor and unprivileged upbringing, they, more than anyone, hold the power to explore these narratives and challenge the deep-rooted inequalities engrained by South African politics.

Muholi is also known for putting themselves in a mise en scene, either portraying ancestors, family, friends, or, in more recent work, alter egos of themselves. Exploring different versions of what they could have become in alternative life stories.

Creating different personas that are mostly given Zulu names.
It is a confrontation between the art, its creator, and the audience, but with an empowering stance. 

The traits often enhanced post-production are darkened and deepened, creating high contrast in their portraits. Headgear and adornments often  
embellish the subject as it is defying its audience. 
Empowered and vulnerable simultaneously, the artist achieves a delicate balance in their work. 

An exploration of the black body and its experience - impactful and meaningful work by Zanele Muholi. 


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