“In her series entitled Faces and Phases, there is such an unnerving sensitivity to the way that she depicts the people in her images and captures their emotions,” Kingston says. “These images are classic head-and-shoulders images, and she makes us almost ashamed that we make LGBTQI people abnormal. It turns the mirror on us.”
Kingston says Muholi’s photographs also reference the classic portraiture tradition associated with West African cultural history. “Seydou Keita, one of our continent’s most iconic portraiture photographers, who lived in Bamako, Mali, was well known for this type of photography. This body of Muholi’s work reminds me of that era,” she says.
In her most recent series, entitled Somnyama Ngonyama, Muholi turns the camera on herself, and, for the first time, she is looking straight into the camera defiantly, using a variety of materials and props that suggest various forms of historic and current hardship. “On her head as hair, the steel wool that we use to clean pots talks to the gender role — the constant domesticated work,” Kingston says.