Zanele Muholi at the Tate Modern

27.06.2024
Caitlin McGarry

Zanele Muholi at the Tate Modern

27.06.2024
Caitlin McGarry

‘Zanele Muholi’ at the Tate Modern presents the triumphs, tragedies and obstacles faced among Black LGBTQIA+ communities. The show focuses on the works of South African artist and visual activist, Zanele Muholi, who has been recording the stories and milestones of South Africa’s LGBTQIA+ community since the early 2000s.

Muholi grew up under an apartheid regime, with racial segregation put in place by the white minority. At this time, the gay community also faced severe persecution that was purposefully overlooked by authorities. It wasn’t until 1996, post-apartheid, that South Africa’s constitution became the first to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. Despite this historic progression, the Black LGBTQIA+ community has continued to face prejudice. To shed light on the communities’ unwavering resilience towards common acts of violence, Muholi began their activism.

The exhibition displays over 260 photographs, four sculptures, five videos and soundscapes. The pieces collectively aim to subvert traditional ideologies, whilst showcasing the strength of the Black LGBTQIA+ community. This exhibition covers a lot of ground as it explores individual stories, moments of intimacy, insight into collective trauma, the history of LGBTQIA+ rights and notable triumphs along the way.

‘Faces and Phases’, Muholi’s longest ongoing project featured in the second room, was a personal highlight. Starting in 2006, the collection contains 600 portraits, in celebration of Black lesbians, transgender and gender non-conforming people, with many participants being photographed repeatedly across the years. Muholi captures diversity within the LGBTQIA+ community and highlights the significance of representation and empowerment.

‘Zanele Muholi’ at the Tate Modern, London. Until 26 January 2025.