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Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail the Dark Lioness
Zanele Muholi

Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail the Dark Lioness Zanele Muholi

Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail the Dark Lioness Zanele MuholiSomnyama Ngonyama: Hail the Dark Lioness
Zanele Muholi

Edited by Renée Mussai.


36 pages
410 x 265 mm
ISSN Not Available


Autograph’s newspaper features images from Zanele Muholi’s ongoing series Somnyama Ngonyama, alongside 20 texts exploring and responding to this powerful work. In more than 70 photographs, visual activist Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) uses their body as a canvas to confront the politics of race and representation in the visual archive.

In Somnyama Ngonyama, which translates to ‘Hail The Dark Lioness’ in isiZulu, Muholi playfully employs the conventions of classical painting, fashion photography, and the familiar tropes of ethnographic imagery to rearticulate contemporary identity politics. Gazing defiantly at the camera, Muholi challenges viewers’ perceptions while firmly asserting their cultural identity on their own terms.

Published to accompany the exhibition Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail the Dark Lioness.

Images by Zanele Muholi. Texts include an conversation between Muholi and Curator Renée Mussai, and further contributions by Ajamu, Nana Adusei-Poku, Karen Alexander, Ama Josephine Budge, Christine Eyene, Tamar Garb, Mapula Lehong, Napo ‘Popo’ Masheane, Mohale Mashigo, Irene Fubara-Manuel, Bongani Madondo, Jackie Mondi, Hlonipha Mokoena, Renée Mussai, Pumelela Nqelenga, Oluremi C. Onabanjo, Ingrid Pollard, Skye Skyetshookii, Ruti Talmor and Robert Taylor. Edited by Renée Mussai, Senior Curator and Head of Archive and Research at Autograph.

About the Artist
Zanele Muholi is one of the most acclaimed photographers working today, and their work has been exhibited all over the world. With over 260 photographs, this exhibition presents the full breadth of their career to date.

Muholi describes themself as a visual activist. From the early 2000s, they have documented and celebrated the lives of South Africa’s Black lesbian, gay, trans, queer and intersex communities.

About the Editor 
Renée Mussai is a research-led curator, writer and scholar with a special interest in African and diasporic lens-based black feminist visual arts practices. She is Senior Curator and Head of Curatorial & Collection at Autograph – a London-based non-profit charity, with a remit in photography and film addressing cultural identity, race, representation, and human rights – where she has worked for almost two decades, advocating for a diverse constituency of contemporary artists and co-commissioning a range of artistic programmes, including the critically acclaimed ‘Black Chronicles’ (2014 – 2018, publication forthcoming), the internationally touring ‘Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama—Hail the Dark Lioness’ (2017 – 2021), and Phoebe Boswell’s ‘The Space Between Things’ (2019), amongst many projects.

About the Publisher
Established in 1988, Autograph’s mission is to champion the work of artists who use photography and film to highlight questions of race, representation, human rights and social justice. Through doing so, they invite people to explore the creative and critical power of visual representation, in shaping our understanding of ourselves and of others. Every year they engage hundreds of thousands of people locally, nationally and globally at their gallery in London, digitally and through projects in partner spaces.