Zanele Muholi

Durban, South Africa

Muholi is a visual activist and photographer born in Umlazi, Durban, and living in Johannesburg. The artist’s self-proclaimed mission is “to rewrite a black queer and trans visual history of South Africa for the world to know our resistance and existence at the height of hate crimes in SA and beyond.” Muholi co-founded the Forum for Empowerment of Women (FEW) in 2002, and in 2009 founded Inkanyiso, a forum for queer and visual (activist) media. They continue to train and co-facilitate photography workshops for young women in the townships and run a Youth development program around KwaZulu-Natal.

In 2020, the artist co-founded Bamu Arts Foundation that is trading as Muholi Arts projects. The project empowers local schools with tools that aid them in education through interactive learning and teaches visual arts to the youth within the communities of Durban. The foundation is self-funded by Muholi and partners and runs a residency program for upcoming artists within South Africa.

Muholi also fulfilled a multi-million-rand commission of more than 25 young visual artists in KwaZulu-Natal to interpret their photographic series Somnyama Ngonyama in their mediums. These interpretations were exhibited at the KZNSA Gallery (Durban, 2019), A4 Arts Foundation (Cape Town, 2019), AKAA (Paris, 2019 & 2020), and African Spirit (New York, 2019).

Muholi studied Advanced Photography at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg. In 2009, they completed an MFA: Documentary Media at Ryerson University, Toronto. In 2013, they became an Honorary Professor at the University of the Arts/Hochschule für Künste Bremen in Germany.

Awards and accolades received include the Spectrum International Prize for Photography (2020), Lucie Award for Humanitarian Photography (2019), Rees Visionary Award by Amref Health Africa (2019), a fellowship from the Royal Photographic Society, UK (2018), France’s Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2017), the Mbokodo Award in the category of Visual Arts (2017), ICP Infinity Award for Documentary and Photojournalism (2016), AFRICA’SOUT! Courage and Creativity Award (2016), Outstanding International Alumni Award from Ryerson University (2016), Fine Prize for an emerging artist at the 2013 Carnegie International, Prince Claus Award (2013), Index on Censorship—Freedom of Expression art award (2013), as well as the Casa Africa award for best female photographer and the Fondation Blachère award at Les Rencontres de Bamako Biennial of African photography (2009).

A series of works and other visual mediums by the artist have been exhibited in Hong Kong from May to August 2021. Recent shows include SFMOMA, USA (2023) and National Gallery of Iceland (2022). Previous solo exhibitions have taken place at institutions including Tate Modern, London (2021); Solo Stevenson Gallery, Amsterdam (2021); Norval Foundation, Cape Town (2020); the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African and African American Art at Harvard University (2020); the Seattle Art Museum (2019); Colby Museum of Art, Maine (2019); the Spelman


College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta (2018); New Art Exchange, Nottingham (2018); Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires (2018); Fototgrafiska, Stockholm (2018); LUMA Westbau, Zürich (2018); the Durban Art Gallery (a survey exhibition conceptualised as a homecoming, 2017); Market Photo Workshop, Johannesburg (2017); Glasgow School of Art (2017); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2017); Autograph ABP, London (2017); Maitland Institute, Cape Town (2017); North Carolina Museum of Art (2016); Standard Bank Gallery, Grahamstown (2016); Gallatin Galleries, New York (2016); Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool (2015); Brooklyn Museum (2015); Akershus Kunstsenter, Norway (2015); Einsteinhaus, Ulm (2014); Schwules Museum, Berlin (2014); Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown (2014); and Casa Africa, Las Palmas (2011). The Faces and Phases series has been shown at the South African Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013); DOCUMENTA 13 (2012); and the 29th São Paulo Biennial (2010).

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