“Zanele Muholi Brings Her ‘Visual Activism’ Out of Africa, and Into New York”

Zanele Muholi, a South African artist and visual activist working in photography, video and installation, will be giving the 9th Annual “Two Icons” lecture at the University of Rochester’s Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies where Co-Editor Cilas Kemedjio is director.

For the past nine years, the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies and the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies have hosted the Two Icons Lecture to explore the intersection of race and gender. The lecture honors the legacy of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, two iconic individuals based in Rochester whose deep commitment to civil rights and social justice changed the course of history. Located at the intersection of race and gender, the lecture series is in the spirit of Frederick Douglass and Susan. B. Anthony and past speakers include Alondra Nelson and Sikivu Hutchinson.

Not only will Muholi be speaking at the University of Rochester, she and her team are also taking New York City by a storm with a photography exhibition at the Yancey Richardson Gallery in Chelsea, and a series of events in the Performa 17 biennial of performance-based art, where she and her team are bringing poetry, dance, music, and photo installation to a host of venues including the Bronx Museum and the Stonewall Inn. At the same time, images from the self-portrait series, Somnyama Ngonyama (“Hail, the Dark Lioness”) are running for two weeks on screens atop the Walgreens in Times Square, and on the subway-platform kiosks at hubs including Fulton Street, Atlantic Avenue, and Broadway Junction. Zanele is quoted as saying: “I want to be public, I want to reach people. We’re saying, take the city.” (RoseLee Goldberg, the founder of Performa).

As recently written about in an article by Siddhartha Mitter:

“Muholi intends her appearances in New York City to connect with local LGBTQI people and express kinship in the face of bias and erasure. She is sensitive, for instance, to the current spike of murders of trans people in the United States. “Often we have Americans in solidarity with us,” she says. “This time we are coming to America to say: We feel your pain, and we are with you.”

“We’re here queerizing spaces, blackening spaces,” Muholi says. At the heart of visual activism is simply being present — and in community. “Let’s just have fun. The more we are together, the more we are able to ease up and undo all the negative energies. I don’t care how you identify, your gender. All I know is that I’m beautiful and I’m willing to share my resources, to collaborate, because I’ve got nothing to lose.”

Zanele Muholi’s work and ethos are important for the international humanitarian community to take notice of as an alternative way to think about transnational solidarity, collaboration, and working together.

Read the full post here: https://www.villagevoice.com/2017/11/07/zanele-muholi-brings-her-visual-activism-out-of-africa-and-into-new-york/

Learn more about the upcoming Two Icons Lecture at the University of Rochester here:



Tuesday, November 14, 2017


Rush Rhees Library, Humanities Center. Conference Room D

Zanele Muholi:“Visual Activism, Photography, Identity, and Community Work”

The lecture will consist of 3x parts:

  1. Activism – focusing on the ‘Faces and Phases’ body of work
  2. Personal – focusing on the ‘Somnyama Ngonyama’ body of work
  3. Participation – focusing on community work and the public