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Zanele Muholi’s Artful Activism

Zanele Muholi’s Artful Activism

Zanele Muholi
Zanele Muholi

A new exhibit is a statement of defiance.

Pictured: Zanele Muholi self portrait (left); and Martin Machapa

On paper, South Africa boasts an impressive record for LGBT rights. But on the ground, its LGBT citizens continue to be victims of deplorable acts of violence. In this polarized reality, South African artist Zanele Muholi's new exhibit Zanele Muholi: Isibonelo/Evidenceat the Brooklyn Museum is a statement of defiance, a political act of visibility, and above all an affirmation of love.


Chronicling the contemporary queer experience in her native land, particularly its black lesbian and transgender communities, her powerful portraiture feels both intimate and familiar; Muholi focuses on family life and relationships as an antidote to bigotry. "Isibonelo/Evidence" is, in a sense, a photo album that challenges and expands a national identity. "It's about saying, 'I want to be counted in South African history,' " Muholi said in a recent documentary. "Claiming my full citizenship means I have to write that part of history."

Zanele Muholi: Isibonelo/Evidence through Nov. 1 at the Brooklyn Museum, New York City.

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