Muholi is a visual activist who is using her images to make visible the stories of black LBGTI people who live in South Africa and beyond.
On her exhibition, Somnyama Ngonyama… This is my artistic expression to reflect on and respond to the experience of racism. The work deals with the racism we see perpetuated in the media, and incidents that happen every day that we do not speak about; the experiences that displace the black person in different spaces.
On the artist’s responsibility… I am an activist before I am an artist, and use my photography to address issues not often tackled in the mainstream media. I believe artists have a responsibility, because we live in a world where a lot of our people are excluded from certain spaces. When a space is opened up for us, it is our responsibility to question and critique, as well as open up these spaces for others.
On making more spaces for LGBTI people… There is an invisibility and lack of representation for black queer content in galleries and other public sites, which we must fight by insisting on having conversations about the absence of our work in those spaces. Most artists do not have access to galleries to show their work because some curators and directors perceive our work as “too explicit”, not relevant, or outside mainstream concerns. When we think of art activism produced by people who identify as LGBTI, we have to make sure our people are resourced to show their work.
On the legacy she wants to leave… I want everyone who looks at my work to see the existence of LGBTI people in South Africa and beyond. I want people to respect us and appreciate that a lot of relevant things we are doing have historically been left undocumented, unheard, and unseen. I want our experiences to continue to be part of the South African history archives, permanently written into their narratives. I want our visuals to be part of the mainstream archives to educate people, because our history needs queer history to be complete and representative of all people.
This article is adapted from one originally published in 'Sunday Times The Edit Spring/Summer Holiday '16'. Available to select print subscribers, and all digital subscribers, this magazine is your ultimate seasonal fashion guide. Read 'The Edit' online now.