Zanele Muholi Discusses Being a Visual Activist in the South African Black Lesbian Community
TIME Magazine’s Lightbox has featured South African photographer Zanele Muholi. In an interview with Paul Moakley, Muholi talked about mapping a project that can now be used as a visual and artistic reference of South Africa’s black lesbians.
She said that her Faces and Phases project “is basically about celebrating the lives of the people around me, and commemorating those who have since passed due to disease or hate crimes.” Faces and Phases is currently on view at the Yancey Richardson Gallery in New York City until April 6th.
“Siyafana is a word that means ‘we are the same’ in Zulu, and encompasses both the similarities and the differences within our ‘black’ race,’” says South African-born photographer Zanele Muholi, describing the central theme of her project, Faces and Phases. Muholi began work on Faces in 2006 after photographing two close friends who died at a young age. Both died from HIV-related illnesses; one of them had been the victim, in multiple incidents, of hate crimes. With Faces and Phases, Muholi hopes to broaden and deepen the visual representation of black lesbians in present-day South Africa — a visual history of a community that, she feels, has been too-long ignored not only by the country’s media, but by the larger gay rights movement that first flourished in her country in the 1990s.
- Zanele Muholi: Faces and Phases by Zanele Muholi, edited by Michael Stevenson, Federica Angelucci