In a series of 90 self-portraits, Zanele Muholi pays homage to the history of black women. The portraits are shown in her traveling exhibition, as well as in her book “Zanele Muholi: Somnyama, Hail the Dark Lioness”. This book does not only contain self-portraits of Zanele Muholi, but also essays, criticism and poems, written by various curators, art historians and writers.
The ways in which Zanele Muholi’s portraits represent black identity are personal, but also political in an inevitable way. They also offer a view that is adversative to the stereotypes and oppressive standards of beauty. When it comes to beauty standards and beauty stereotypes, people of color are often ignored. According to Zanele Muholi, these beauty stereotypes have led to hatred of all parts of the black body. Because of this, she uses her series of self-portraits to break through these outdated conventions.
This demonstration of art is not Zanele Muholi’s only accomplishment as a superwoman. This is, she is also a co-founder of the Forum for the Empowerment of Women. This forum stands up for the rights of black lesbians in South Africa. She is also the founder of the collective ‘Inkanyiso’, which pleas for more visual arts and media dedicated to queer activism. Knowing this, it is not hard to believe that activism is central in Muholi’s photographs and that she likes to refer to herself as a “visual activist”.
The book “Zanele Muholi: Somnyama, Hail the Dark Lioness” is available at the website which can be reached through the following link:
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