OMA Adds “Zibuyile I” by Zanele Muholi to its Permanent Collection
ORLANDO, February 26, 2018 – On February 7th, the Orlando Museum of Art’s Acquisition Trust purchased Zanele Muholi’s photograph Zibuyile I. The Acquisition Trust presented the work to the Museum during a special reception for its members to celebrate the occasion.
Muholi’s, Zibuyile I, is a strong example from a body of work that has received international acclaim and helped to establish Muholi as one of South Africa’s most important photographers of her generation. The addition of this work to the Museum’s permanent collection expands the scope of work by artists who are addressing urgent questions of identity, struggle and validation among diverse communities around the world. The work joins others in the collection that use portraiture and the figure to tell meaningful stories about who we are today.
“Somnyama Ngonyama,” translated as “Hail the Dark Lioness”, is the title for a body of work that includes Zibuyile I. These images are both deeply personal and defiantly political. Muholi’s transformations of herself in each photograph create an uncomfortable dialogue with issues of identity, social inequality and the representation of the black body in the photographic archive as a whole.
In her interaction with the photographic archive, through the creation of images that recall everything from fashion magazines to National Geographic covers, Muholi deliberately raises questions of the exoticization and “othering” of black subjects through the history of mainstream representational photography. Her use of different costumes and objects in the photos adds a further layer of meaning which draws on both archival elements and her personal history.
Relating to her portraits, Muholi writes, “I have portrayed myself in highly stylized fashion using the performative and expressive language of theatre. The black face and its details become the focal point, forcing the viewer to question their desire to gaze at images of my black figure. By exaggerating the darkness of my skin tone, I'm reclaiming my blackness, which I feel is continuously performed by the privileged other.”
About Zanele Muholi
Born 1972 in Umlazi, South Africa, Zanele Muholi is a photographer and self-proclaimed visual activist. She completed an Advanced Photography course at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg in 2003, and held her first solo exhibition at the Johannesburg Art Gallery in 2004. In 2009 she was awarded her MFA in Documentary Media from Ryerson University in Toronto. Her thesis mapped the visual history of black lesbian identity and politics in post-Apartheid South Africa.
About Acquisition Trust
Founded in 1984, the Acquisition Trust (AT) is a collecting group that supports the Orlando Museum of Art through its acquisition of contemporary artwork. The AT has built a significant collection of contemporary art for the museum including artwork by internationally recognized artists such as Robin Rhode, Elizabeth Murray, John Chamberlain, Robert Rauschenberg, Pat Steir, Kerry James Marshall, Jennifer Bartlett, Nick Cave, Mel Kendrick, Tom McGrath and Therman Statom.
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Image credit: Zanele Muholi, Zibuyile I, Syracuse, 2015, from the series Ma|D, silver gelatin print, 23 ½ x 17 in. Purchased with funds provided by the Charles E. Meiner Acquisition Trust Endowment Fund. © 2015 Zanele Muholi. Image courtesy of the Yancey Richardson Gallery.