Excerpt of Zanele Muholi: Isibonelo/Evidence, from Afterimage Vol. 43, no.3
Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art,
May 1–November 1, 2015
Zanele Muholi: Isibonelo/Evidence is a timely exhibition hosted by the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum in light of the June 26, 2015, ruling by the United States Supreme Court legalizing the fundamental right to marry for same-sex couples in the US—the twenty-first country worldwide to do so. But more than evidence of today’s political landscape, Zanele Muholi’s collection of photographs, words, and an intimate screening of her video Being Scene (2012) invite viewers into the violent pain, emotional despair, and colorful celebrations of love within the black lesbian and transgender communities of her native South Africa.
In the first room of the exhibition, the charcoal colored walls provide a haunting backdrop for what becomes a crime scene turned site of commemoration. Hanging in a grid are sixty portraits from the series Faces and Phases (2006–14). In honor of her friends and acquaintances who have been assaulted, raped, and murdered in South Africa over the past ten years, Muholi remembers each identity in a sea of gazes—gazes of anger, gazes of hope, and gazes of pride. In contrast to the past-tense nature of the word “DECEASED” stamped on hate murder victim Disebo Gift Makau’s passport in The Departed Gift, Ventersdorp (2014), each portrait signals a yearning to survive…
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