by Lerato Dumse
South African Ambassador to Norway, Queen Anne Zondo, wrote a new chapter when she opened photographer, Zanele Muholi’s exhibition, at the Akershus Art Center, Lillestrøm, in Oslo, on February 21.
Nearly six years after then minister of Arts and Culture, Lulu Xingwana walked out of an exhibition showing Muholi’s work calling it immoral and “not suitable for a family audience.”
Zanele Muholi – The Art of Activism, exhibition opened to a crowd of art lovers and followers of the artivist’s work, some with their children in tow.
Zondo, while presenting the opening remarks reiterated that, “the SA government believes that human rights are for all, regardless of race or nationality, age or gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The ambassador conceded that, “most societal stereotypes force Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people to either conceal or lead a life of being apprehensive to be caught who they really are.”
She added that forcing people to live like that is not in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ending her speech by saying “Zanele’s work therefore teaches us how to live and love again.”
Muholi expressed gratitude for having the ambassador open the show, which is installed from the first to the third floor of the centre saying, “it shows the progress that is being made.”
The work exhibited comes from the “Being”, “ZaVa” and Faces and Phases series, which mixes the black and white portraits of black lesbians and transgender people, with photographs about love and relationships in the lesbian community.
Akershus Art Center director, Rikke Komissar says their exhibition programme varies, and covers from contemporary artists dealing with formal aesthetics to more societal and politically engaged topics, while socially engaged visual art is repeated in their programme.
She explained that their aim is to shed light on Muholi’s works because of the, “importance in her practice and the difficulties that black LGBT persons encounter in South Africa.”
Rikke goes on to say that “although this is happening on a different continent, in a different country, it is important to us to show a Norwegian public what is going on in other parts of the world. The challenges that LGBTQI persons face also in other countries, such as Russia, Arabic nations etc. proves that the exhibition and topics that Muholi works with, is still very much relevant.”
Exhibition is open until March 29 2015.