Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness is the long-awaited monograph from one of the most powerful visual activists of our time. The book features over ninety of Muholi’s evocative self-portraits, each image drafted from material props in Muholi’s immediate environment. These portraits reflect the journey, self-image, and possibilities of a black woman in today’s global society. A powerfully arresting collection of work, Muholi’s radical statements of identity, race, and resistance are a direct response to contemporary and historical racisms. As Muholi states, “I am producing this photographic document to encourage individuals in my community to be brave enough to occupy spaces—brave enough to create without fear of being vilified… To teach people about our history, to rethink what history is all about, to reclaim it for ourselves—to encourage people to use artistic tools such as cameras as weapons to fight back.”
With more than twenty written contributions from curators, poets, and authors, alongside luxurious tritone reproductions of Muholi’s images, Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness is as much a manifesto of resistance as it is an autobiographical, artistic statement.
Zanele Muholi (born in Umlazi, South Africa, 1972) is a visual activist and photographer, co-founder of the Forum for the Empowerment of Women, and founder of Inkanyiso, a forum for queer and visual media. Muholi has won numerous awards for their work, including France’s prestigious Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2018); the ICP Infinity Award for Documentary and Photojournalism (2016); the Fine Prize for an emerging artist at the 2013 Carnegie International; a Prince Claus Award (2013); and both the Casa África award for best female photographer and a Fondation Blachère award at Les Rencontres de Bamako biennial of African photography (2009). Their Faces and Phases series was shown at dOCUMENTA (13) and the 55th Venice Biennale and was shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize in 2015. Muholi is an honorary professor at the University of the Arts Bremen, Germany. They are represented by Stevenson Gallery, Johannesburg, and Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York.