Zanele Muholi Shifts the Lens on Herself in 'Somnyama Ngonyama'
South African photographer and activist Zanele Muholi presents her second solo exhibit at Chelsea gallery Yancey Richardson , in a stunning series of self-portraits titled 'Somnyama Ngonyama', meaning 'Hail, the Dark Lioness'. Muholi is known for extensively documenting the LGBTI community in South Africa through her powerful portraiture and is also a tireless activist helping to expose the atrocities that befall this vulnerable demographic. In a recent Brooklyn Museum exhibit called 'Isibonelo/Evidence', Muholi presented seven years of work executed through photography, video and installation. The show focused on numerous black lesbian subjects, each with extraordinary stories to tell, and their unfortunate subjugation and persecution faced under a homophobic African society. Muholi introduces a new direction in 'Somnyama Ngonyama', turning the camera on herself and experimenting with various societal perceptions of black women, part of an ongoing series called MaID (My Identity). Muholi explores different characters/archetypes, some of which are drawn from socio-political events tied to South African history. In a few images, Muholi alters her skintone to a darker shade, stating that 'By exaggerating the darkness of my skin tone, I’m reclaiming my blackness, which I feel is continuously performed by the privileged other'. Muholi exudes different moods in each of these photographs, ranging from coquettish, maternal, dutiful, and highly spiritual told through a dramatic black and white photographic lens. 'Somnyama Ngonyama' will be on view through December 5 at Yancey Richardson in New York.