19 November - 19 December 2015
4 January - 29 January 2016



STEVENSON is pleased to present Zanele Muholi's new exhibition of photographs, Somnyama Ngonyama.

In contrast to her life-long project of documenting members of the black LGBTI community of South Africa, for this body of work Muholi turns the camera on herself.

As she presents black and white self-portraits taken while travelling in South Africa, America and Europe, Somnyama Ngonyama (meaning 'Hail, the Dark Lioness') confronts the politics of race and pigment in the photographic archive, while commenting on specific events in South Africa's political history, such as the Marikana massacre.

The series references black and white portraiture and fashion photography, with Muholi dressed in different outfits as she takes on various personas. She writes:

Experimenting with different characters and archetypes, I have portrayed myself in highly stylised fashion using the performative and expressive language of theatre. The black face and its details become the focal point, forcing the viewer to question their desire to gaze at images of my black figure. By exaggerating the darkness of my skin tone, I'm reclaiming my blackness, which I feel is continuously performed by the privileged other.

Along with these self-portraits, the exhibition features a series of 12 photographs from Muholi's ongoing essay titled Brave Beauties. Continuing her renowned practice of photographing the LGBTI community, this collection of black and white images is a celebratory look at the body and the politics of expression.

In this collection, Muholi recalls her own second-place win at a Ms Sappho contest in Johannesburg in 1997. Brave Beauties was taken in 2014, South Africa's 20th anniversary of democracy, and acknowledges the radical transformation of South African society even though many shadows remain, especially in terms of crimes against the LGBTI community.

About Brave Beauties, Muholi says:

Each person is striking their own confident pose, expressing and claiming their femininity and affirming their existence and love for looking beautiful. Most of the participants have won Miss Gay beauty pageants in their communities. The contest takes place in various locations around South Africa, especially in the townships, as a way of creating awareness through cultural activities - drag performance, music and dance.

Muholi currently has a solo exhibition, Vukani/Rise, at the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool (until 29 November 2015). Current group exhibitions include Où poser la tête? at FRAC Rèunion, Reunion Island (6 November 2015 - mid-January 2016); After Eden / Après Eden - The Walther Collection at La maison rouge, Paris (17 October 2015 - 13 March 2016); Making Africa. A Continent of Contemporary Design, at Guggenheim Bilbao (30 October 2015 - 21 February 2016); Material Matters: New Art from Africa, at Institute of Contemporary Art Indian Ocean, Port Louis, Mauritius (8 September - 27 November 2015); and History, Art, Architecture and Design: 80s to Today, Pompidou Centre, Paris (2 July 2014 - 11 January 2016).

Muholi has won numerous awards including the Fine Prize for an emerging artist at the 2013 Carnegie International; a Prince Claus Award (2013); the Index on Censorship - Freedom of Expression art award (2013); and the Casa Africa award for best female photographer and a Fondation Blachère award at Les Rencontres de Bamako biennial of African photography (2009). Her Faces and Phases series has shown at, among others, Documenta 13; the South African Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale; and the 29th São Paulo Biennale. She was shortlisted for the 2015 Deutsche Börse Photography Prize for her publication Faces and Phases: 2006-14 (Steidl/The Walther Collection). Muholi is an Honorary Professor of the University of the Arts, Bremen.

The exhibition opens on Thursday 19 November 2015, from 6pm to 8pm.

Zanele Muholi artist page.

Related multimedia and press:

Multimedia: Zanele Muholi walkabout | Radio 702 host Azania Mosaka interviews Zanele Muholi | eNCA video filmed by Sbonokuhle Magcaba

Print: Lwandile Fikeni for City Press | Oliver Roberts for Sunday Times | Kwanele Sosibo for Mail & Guardian | Chris Thurman for Business Day | Vuyiswa Xekatwane for Between 10and5.

Hours are from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, and Saturday 10am to 1pm. The gallery will be closed from 20 December 2015 to 3 January 2016.

Somnyama Ngonyama
Installation view

Somnyama Ngonyama
Installation view

Somnyama Ngonyama
Installation view

Somnyama Ngonyama
Installation view

Somnyama Ngonyama
Installation view

Somnyama Ngonyama
Installation view


Bester I, Mayotte, 2015

Somandla, Parktown, 2014

Thulani II, Parktown, 2015

Babhekile II, Oslo, 2015

Thembeka I, New York Upstate, 2015

Ntomb’zane, Mayotte, 2015

Somnyama I, Paris, 2014

Inkanyiso I, Paris, 2014

Ntombi II, Paris, 2014

Mfana, London, 2014

Ntombi I, Paris, 2014

Bester IV, Mayotte, 2015

Zodwa, Paris, 2014

Somnyama III, Paris, 2014

Musa, London, 2015

Thembeka II, London, 2014

Hlengiwe, Paris, 2014

Thembitshe, Parktown, 2014

Bona, Charlottesville, 2015

Somnyama IV, Oslo, 2015

Zibuyile, Parktown, 2014

MaID, Brooklyn, New York, 2015

Thulani I, Paris, 2014

Bester II, Paris, 2014

Zodwa II, Amsterdam, 2015

Somnyama Ngonyama II, Oslo, 2015

Zodwa I, Amsterdam, 2015

Ndivile II, Malmo, 2015

Zibuyile I, Syracuse, 2015

Bester V, Mayotte, 2015

MaID in Harlem, African Market, 116 St, 2015

MaID I, Syracuse, 2015

Vukani II, Paris, 2014

Phindile I, Paris, 2014

Vukani I, Paris, 2014


Dimpho Tsotetsi, Parktown, Johannesburg 2014

Eva Mofokeng II, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2014

Yaya Mavundla, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2014

Le Sishi, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2014

Nathi Dlamini, Kingsway, Daveyton, 2014

Miss Tee Menu, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2014

Lee Siba, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2014

Nathi Dlamini III, Kingsway, Daveyton, 2014

Yaya Mavundla, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2014

Eva Mofokeng I, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2014

Ntsantsa, Tsakane, Johannesburg, 2013

Somizy Sincwala, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2014

Sfiso Candice Nkosi, Tsakane, Johannesburg, 2013

Kgomotso Mashapa, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2014