2015 March 16: Response to Muholi – Artist’s Talk

@ UCL Centre for the Study of Contemporary Art at 6pm
by Dr Cadence Kinsey

Ahead of the exhibition opening, which is part of the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize, nominee, Zanele Muholi visited the History of Art Department at UCL to talk about her work as an artist and activist. Her nominated project, Faces and Phases 2006-14, explores black LGBTI identity in post-apartheid South Africa and beyond. Working closely with participants, Muholi’s work represents the life of the community against a backdrop of homophobia, transphobia, discrimination and violence. However, as Muholi explained, traditions of resistance imagery – of pain and protest – are offset in her work by depictions of tenderness and love.


2015 March 13 UCL dept 1


The daily experience of life and living, of weddings and funerals, become moments that bring the community together. Muholi also spoke about how her work connects with Inkanyiso, the project she developed in response to the lack of visual histories and visual literacy skills training produced by and for black LGBTI persons. Through this project, the community can work together to develop new languages of self-representation.


2015 Mar.13 Muholi presenting her work to students and allies  UCL,  UK. Photo by Lerato Dumse

2015 Mar.13 Muholi presenting her work to students and allies UCL, UK. Photo by Lerato Dumse


Taken as a whole, Muholi described her work as visual activism: a project of producing positive representations, of authoring new spaces and even new realities. By moving away from direct representations of hate and violence, Muholi’s work constructs a new archive for the black LGBTI community. Because the photograph can enter many different kinds of spaces, or go ‘viral’ as Muholi put it, these images have a life beyond the gallery: they are put to work online, on social media, to be shared amongst those who created them. As such, it seemed to me that the power of the project was that it does not simply document but actively intervenes in the lives of those it represented.


2015 March 13 UCL _Muholi Lecture -poster
Muholi’s talk was followed by a lively debate that centred on her activist work. One provocative topic was how the legacies of violence in apartheid might be felt in the kinds of hate crime that shadow her work as an artist and activist working with black LGBTI individuals, raising issues of accountability and responsibility for those who perpetuate the violence. Other questions focused on possible moments of solidarity with other African nations, and cases from Zambia and Nigeria were discussed. This left us with the open question of how to attend to difference – to local issues, need or resources – while developing ways to work together.



Previous links


2015 March 14: Educational Friday with UCL scholars and allies




2015 Mar. 12:  Muholi addresses scholars at Brighton University, UK


Related link


2015 Mar. 9:  “African Photography & ” Faces and Phases” seminar



2015 Feb.27: Announcement – Public Lecture by Zanele Muholi @ UCLAN, London



2014 July 18: Women’s Day Lecture at UFS




2014 June 17: Muholi’s Ryerson University (RIC) Talk




2014 Mar.21: Photo of the Day from Human Rights and LGBTI in Sub-Saharan Africa class




2014 Mar. 18: Sharing South African Queer Knowledge with students in America




2014 Mar.5: More than an activist




2014 Feb.4: Black Queer Born Frees in South Africa




2013 Nov. 4: From Market Photo Workshop to Bremen University





This entry was posted in Another Approach Is Possible, Archived memories, Creating awareness, Expression, Power of the Voice, Response by Dr Cadence Kinsey, South Africa, We Are You, We Care, We love each other, We love photographs, We Love Photography, We Still Can with/out Resources, Well organized event, Writing is a Right, Zulu is a language and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to 2015 March 16: Response to Muholi – Artist’s Talk

  1. Pingback: 2015 Oct. 9: Muholi presents at the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series | inkanyiso.org

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