Begun in 2013, the Weddings series captures in photographs and video the joyful same-sex unions of Muholi’s friends. In contrast to the formal portraits of Faces and Phases, these photographs are a riot of bright colors and spontaneous interactions. Shuttling from tightly framed details of decor and dress to long lineups of gender-fluid bridal parties, they suggest a playful yet enthusiastic embrace of wedding customs by couples eager to proclaim the legitimacy of their love.
Muholi’s Faces and Phases project invites engagement with the distinctive presence of each sitter while simultaneously offering a view of an expansive community. Fighting a common misconception that homosexuality was imported to South Africa by white colonists, Muholi asserts the visibility of black lesbians as a group but also insists that its individual members are not reducible to a shared category of identification. Begun in the townships of South Africa in 2006, this ongoing series now includes more than 250 portraits from around the world.
Zanele Muholi: Isibonelo/Evidence
May 1–November 8, 2015
Zanele Muholi meshes her work in photography, video, and installation with human rights activism to create visibility for the black lesbian and transgender communities of South Africa. Zanele Muholi: Isibonelo/Evidence is the most comprehensive museum presentation to date of Muholi’s works and features several of the artist’s ongoing projects about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) communities, both in her home country and abroad.
The exhibition presents eighty-seven works created between 2007 and 2014, including Muholi’s Faces and Phases portrait series, which uses firsthand accounts to speak to the experience of living in a country that constitutionally protects the rights of LGBTI people but often fails to defend them from targeted violence. Also included is the new series Weddings and the video Being Scene, both of which focus on love, intimacy, and daily life within Muholi’s close-knit community.
Zanele Muholi: Isibonelo/Evidence is organized by Catherine J. Morris, Sackler Family Curator for the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, with Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum.
Support for this exhibition is provided by the Antonia and Vladimer Kulaev Cultural Heritage Fund, Abigail E. Disney and Pierre N. Hauser, and Tracey, Phillip, and Enoch Riese.