2016 Feb. 18: Muholi talks self-representation at Gallatin School of Individualized Study

Text and photos by Lerato Dumse

So here I was, looking at the beautiful night view of New York City from thousands of feet in the air. While the plane made a descent into LaGuardia airport, my excitement ascended as I tried to capture many shots from the window seat on the left side of the flight.

Zanele Muholi, Themba Vilakazi and I ended up in the late night flight because our original flight from Columbus, Ohio had been cancelled due to the bad weather that affected NYC days before. After some negotiating we were transferred to the next available flight which was a different airline and going to a different airport. The first sign that my haven ended on touchdown was when we were stuck inside the plane for over 15 minutes while waiting for someone to open the door. Eventually we were freed and after disembarking we headed to baggage claim, where the next part of the adventure continued. With no clear communication we moved up and down the carousels until we were told which two might have them.

Together with a handful of fellow passengers we waited for our bags. After waiting for more than an hour, an employee from American Airlines came to announce that our bags were never on the flight and said we need to come to the baggage office. After taking down our details we were given toiletry bags (which are not user friendly for a black female) and given little hope or indication of when we would receive our luggage.  Our check-in time at the Airbnb was 3pm and now we were leaving the airport past 11pm, I was just praying the person who was supposed to give us the key would not dose off.

Fortunately all went well and we arrived at our new home had some pizza and called it a night.


2016 Feb. 17 Muholi speaks @NYU Gallatin_6684
We woke up the next morning February 17 2016; it was a big day on the calendar. Muholi had a public lecture at New York University’s (NYU) Gallatin School of Individualized Study.


2016 Feb. 26 Zinathi closing @NYU Gallatin _7322


The talk was scheduled to coincide with her exhibition at the school titled Zinathi. The show, which opened on February 5, premiered many of the photos installed. Zinathi beautifully merged Faces and Phases and Somnyama Ngonyama, while a video projection play on the opposite wall featuring documentaries and art videos including Difficult Love, Lona Wumzimba Wami, We Live in Fear, Puma Film for Peace. The innovative show presented some of the Somnyama self-portraits in metal plates.

2014 Portia Modise sm 0629 BWThe on-going Faces and Phases series had both follow up portraits and new participants. Portia Modise, former Banyana Banyana striker who is the first soccer player from the African continent to score more than 100 international goals is one of the new faces in the project.

While self-portraiture is the route explored by the activist in her latest body of work Somnyama Ngonyama. This talented artist has turned the camera on herself, in what she calls an “artist’s response to on going racism.” The images were taken in different locations whilst travelling in Africa, America and Europe. Muholi describes this process as one of self-discovery, and so through this series we get to see and experience the many ways she imagines herself.
Muholi opened the talk by sharing that she had planned to study at NYU and be supervised by Deb Willis, whose work she read and still goes back to her work Family History Memory. Born during apartheid South Africa (SA) to a domestic worker mother and Malawian migrant father, Muholi admitted that she didn’t grow up with a camera.

“I am a product of bantu education, which causes many people to continue being affected by unemployment,” Muholi explained. The archivist revealed that her talk would focus on contemporary SA and not venture into the 1700s history. As a precautionary measure in her LGBTI work, Muholi admitted that she works with people who are out of the closet. “I did not want to end 2014 without including and recognising Portia hence I documented her on Christmas Eve of that year.”

Muholi echoed her sentiments that members of the LGBTI community cannot rely on mainstream media to “document and tell our story” so she took it upon herself to also document. The visual activist then projected her wok, which included a diptych image relating to the death of Sandra Bland, the image was created while she was on residency at Light Work in Syracuse.

The activist also shared how her work aims to inform racists that, “we are black 365 days and don’t have to mimic it.”


2016 Feb. 26 Muholi closing remarks @NYU Gallatin _7252

26.02.2016 Muholi speaking at the closing of Zinathi exhibition in New York


2016 Feb. 26 Muholi with NY friends sm _7331

Celebrating the ending of the successful show with NYC friends at NYU Gallatin gallery. From L-R:  Elaine, Yvonne, Elliot, Muholi, Christin, Mahlot, Rin and Jenna.


Related links


2016 Feb. 12:  Outstanding demonstration of excellence




2016 Jan. 31:  Muholi’s upcoming mo(ve)ments




2015 Dec. 8:  Cultural exchange from Johannesburg to Sardinia




2015 Oct. 14:  Brief visit to Amherst




2015 Oct. 9:  Muholi presents at Penny Stamps Distinguished Speakers Series



2015 Sept. 8:  Faces and Phases presented at Hasselblad Foundation




2015 Sept. 2:  When Faces Meet in Gothenburg, Sweden




2015 Aug. 23:  Muholi and Dumse present at Light Work AIR




2015 March 12:  Muholi addressed scholars at Brighton University, UK




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 Appreciation, Archived memories, Art Activism, Art Edutainment, Art is Queer, Article by Lerato Dumse, Articles, LGBTI politics, Uncategorized, Writing is a Right and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to 2016 Feb. 18: Muholi talks self-representation at Gallatin School of Individualized Study

  1. Pingback: 2016 May 21: Muholi presents at ICA’s Great Texts/ Big Questions | inkanyiso.org

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