by Wendy Khumalo
On arrival at Zanele Muholi’s home we already had appointments scheduled for the day. The first was with an upmarket accounting firm in Sandton; this was truly going to be an educational day. I was thankful to be part of this informative business session, as I’m also starting a business venture. We literally spent 30 minutes in Sandton and we had to run Zanele’s errands then head back to Parktown, have lunch and be on the road to Benoni in Wattville for an interview and photo shoot Lebo Lebona for the Brave Beauties series/project.
Lebo welcomed Zanele, Lerato Dumse and myself, and was poised and elegant. Beautiful warm smile, couldn’t stop looking at her, she took me back to my crush Senny, a brave beauty from Durban. Lebo then introduced us to her mother who was in the house, we were going to conduct the photo shoot/interview outside as lighting was perfect. I was fascinated and intrigued by how professional and easy Zanele was. She was in her element, she directed Lebo as she was about to shoot her portraits. Lebo was in her element, Zanele didn’t say much she just shot photo after photo and Lerato taking different behind the scene angles of the two. It was incredible they were in sync. I was in awe, joined them for a few photos to post, so I could share my incredible experience. As Zanele was wrapping up it started to rain, this meant the interview would have to be postponed due to the bad sound quality. I was sad that I was not going to witness the interview process but I was thankful that I got to witness the Legend in action. The rain became worse and that was our queue to go.
Couldn’t sleep much, excited that I’d be going to view Zanele’s legendary work Somnyama Ngomnyama. I was the first to bath; my excitement could not be contained. We left the apartment after 9:30am, Uber was already waiting outside for us. As we were on our way to Stevenson Gallery in Braamfontein, I couldn’t be prouder to be in the same vehicle as our Zanele Muholi who hails from the same township I was born. As we walked inside Stevenson I was greeted by Somnyama Ngonyama, covering the entrance of the gallery. Incredible, I thought to myself smiling, in appreciation of umkhaya wami. Zanele greeted the staff & colleagues at the gallery. At the moment all I cared for was her work than introductions. I was in awe, walking through the gallery was liberating to see our own artist exhibiting such provocative work. I was alive with possibilities and inspired to do more push boundaries.
I was ready to take my rightful place by locking arms with Zanele on Faces and Phases, I’ve always been a fan of her work now I’d be participating in he most significant year a decade of Faces and Phases & 22 years of democracy. Being shot in the gallery was amazing, couldn’t have asked for a better location. Time was not on our side would have loved to spend more time at the gallery but we had another meeting/ lunch discussion in Pretoria at the US Embassy – Media’s Role in Mainstreaming LGBTI Rights in honor of United States Special Envoy for LGBTI Rights. Randy Berry. In my wildest dreams never did I ever think I’d sit with humans of such stature and discuss issues of the LGBTI community at the US Embassy nogal. Dignitaries have incredible respect for Muholi. They speak so highly of her with respect and admiration. I was thankful she invited me to this meeting. What an incredible experience and looking forward to many more. How can I forget, Zanele introduced me to the most vibrant human Thami Kotlolo who is the founder of the Feather Awards.
Catherine Hill-Herndon welcomed all the guests and Chad Wessen briefed the guests on the Lunch discussion proceedings. The discussion was robust and lunch was different, a three-course meal was served not your average lunch discussion. This is the Major League, Zanele suggested the discussion should be continued in a conference, with other important people present, Chad agreed.
We had another appointment we were rushing to back in Braamfontein with the Swedish Minister of Art but we had to make a quick stop to fetch Dumse. We then proceeded to Vela Café in Braamfontein, where the Swedish Minister and her dignitaries, Yawenda Omotoso (the author of Bom Boy) and Lerato from Stevenson gallery Art was the topic of the day. Walking in Zanele’s shoes is no joke, she looked fresh and still in the zone nothing would take the passion on her face away. When art or photography is the subject/ topic she speak with such passion and confidence. There is a reason and a purpose for every project she embarks on. When I arrived in Johannesburg a day earlier, I was only looking forward to two things the Somnyama Ngonyama exhibition and the meeting at the embassy but I walked away with such an incredible and educational experience and for that I am thankful.