Zanele Muholi

Indawo Yami

22 April - 29 May 2010

Michael Stevenson is proud to present a solo exhibition of new photographs by Zanele Muholi.

Muholi has made headlines in recent weeks, following Minister of Arts and Culture Lulu Xingwana's denunciation of her work on the exhibition Innovative Women as 'pornographic', 'immoral' and 'offensive'. The minister's comments were widely seen as homophobic (despite Xingwana's claims to the contrary) and caused an outcry among gay and lesbian organisations and within the arts community. (See story as reported by the Mail & Guardian.)

It is precisely such attitudes as Xingwana's that Muholi aims to counteract, taking a bold activist stance against the stigmatisation of lesbian and gay sexualities as 'unAfrican'. She is increasingly lauded for this work at an international level. In 2009 she won both the Casa Africa award for best female photographer and a Fondation Blachère award at the Rencontres de Bamako biennial of African photography. In the same year she received a Fanny Ann Eddy accolade from IRN-Africa for her contributions to the study of sexuality in Africa, and was the Ida Ely Rubin Artist-in-Residence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States.

Indawo Yami, which means 'my place' or 'my space', continues to explore the implications of being black and queer through a range of different series and strategies. Being, a continuation of ongoing work, focuses on a quiet and tender celebration of love within the homosexual community, whether between mothers and sons, between lovers or between friends. In Beulahs Muholi uses Zulu beads and contemporary fashion accessories in presenting portraits of gay men that subvert common images of virginal beauty. In three new series she adds a performative element by casting herself in different roles, such as that of the beauty queen in Miss Lesbian. Muholi writes:

Indawo Yami is where I work, where I share an environment with others, where I act on the issues marking our lives through visual documentation. My focus is mainly on being queer (LGBTI) in South Africa and beyond. This is the realm in which I deal with my identity, as a citizen of my country and of the world.

Muholi (born in 1972) completed an Advanced Photography course at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown and held her first solo exhibition at the Johannesburg Art Gallery in 2004. Since then she has exhibited extensively both locally and internationally. Recent solo shows have taken place at Brodie/Stevenson, Johannesburg (2009); alongside Lucy Azubuike at the CCA Lagos, Nigeria (2009), and at Le Case d'Arte, Milan (2008). Group shows in 2009 included Life Less Ordinary: Performance and Display in South African Art at Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham, UK; Rebelle: Art and Feminism 1969-2009 at the Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem, The Netherlands; and Undercover: Performing and Transforming Black Female Identities at Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta, USA (2009).

Muholi will exhibit concurrently with Anton Kannemeyer and, as part of the FOREX series, Glenn Ligon.

The exhibitions open on Thursday 22 April, 6-8pm.

Muholi will give a walkabout of her exhibition in support of the Friends of the South African National Gallery on Friday 23 April at 11am; cost is R20 members and non-members.

Muholi will also take part in a public discussion with Ligon and Kannemeyer around race, politics and related issues in their works at the gallery on Friday 23 April at 1pm; all are welcome.