Recesses of the Heart

Works by Zanele Muholi

January 19 – February 12, 2016

Thembela Dick, Vredehoek, Cape Town©Zanele Muholi

Self Portrait, Zanele Muholo©Zenele Muholi

Isobonelo©Zanele Muholi

We must be entirely clear about this: the history of people
is littered with attempts to legislate against lover or marriage
across class, caste, and race. But there is no scientific basis or
genetic rationale for love. There is only the grace of God. There
is no scientific justification for prejudice and discrimination ever.
And nor is there any moral justification. Nazi Germany and
apartheid South Africa, among others attest to these facts.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu (1931-) responding to Uganda’s anti-gay bill (introduced in 2009 and signed into law February 24, 2014)

To this day LGBTI communities globally and locally in Anchorage, Alaska suffer from a plethora of violent and verbal abuse. The issue of respecting the dignity and rights of LGBT communities is imperative if we are to find justice for a maligned and marginal populace. This exhibition specifically explores the trials and tribulations of the Black South African LGBTI community as part of Zanele Muholi’s ongoing project s Faces + Phases (begun in 2006). The photographs are accompanied by narratives addressing the plight and empowerment of these individuals. These confessionals provide “evidence” (Isinbolo in Zulu) of their personal confrontations and transcendence over anti-gay discrimination and brutality.

Zanele Muholi, the internationally renown South African Photographer who addresses LGBTI issues, is currently exhibiting a body of her work at the Kimura Gallery. Born in 1972, she currently lives and works in Johannesburg South Africa. She doesn’t like the term artist and perceives herself as a “visual activist”. She grew up in the Umlazi township situated on the South African east coast and eventually took courses at the prestigious Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg. As an engaged artist in the politics of her country she was the co-founder of the L.G.B.T.I. known as the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) in 2009. This cooperative was designated Inkanyiso (Zulu for “the one who brings light”). The purpose of the collective is to prompt and urge the younger “born frees”, the post-apartheid generation to be the chroniclers of their times and personal lives (e.g. reporting at “corrective rape” murder trials to photographing baptisms).

Commemorating and celebrating the personal lives of her community is crucial to Muholi’s human rights activism and is meant to redress and eliminate the opacity of black LGBT issues in present-day South Africa. From her perspective she feels they have been marginalized and overlooked by the larger gay rights movement that burgeoned during the 1990s in her country. Summing it up, Muholi uses the Zulu term Sifayana which means ‘we are the same’ illustrating the similarities and differences within our ‘black’ race-the collective embrace of an overlooked minority. But these portraits are not sensationalized and portrayed as “victims”. There is a silence, restraint and overall confidence in all of the images she presents of the black LGBT community-the luminous message of the “one who brings light.”

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