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Zanele Muholi’s “Hail the Dark Lioness”

I am always trying to stay connected with the arts community in Boston, as this is something I really love about the city. My main source of online art has been ArtsBoston, specifically referring to their calendar section which I have provided at the end of this article. On this homepage, they promote many types of online streaming events containing the arts (1). I always check this page and it is actually how I found Zanele Muholi’s “Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail the Dark Lioness” online art exhibition which I have chosen to highlight in this article. In their post of this online presentation, ArtsBoston provided a link that sends you to the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art. This is the gallery that has sponsored and provided us with a very detailed online exhibition of Muholi’s work, exploring what her works represent and Muholi’s background as an activist and artist. 

It explains how Muholi “uses [her models’] bodies as a canvas to confront the deeply personal politics of race and representation in the visual archive” and that, “each black and white self-portrait asks critical questions about social (in)justice, human rights, and contested representations of the Black body” (2). I was very intrigued by this exhibition and found myself learning more about Muholi and who she is as an artist. It reads that she “… transforms found objects and quotidian materials into dramatic and historically loaded props” and that she is “often commenting on specific events in South Africa’s past, as well as urgent global concerns pertinent to our present times” (2). 

I found Muholi’s work to be very eye-opening. She touches on topics many people sometimes choose to ignore “for their own comfortability” such as “many interlinked phobias, and isms… [like] homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, racism, and sexism” (2). I felt it was important to include all the phobias and isms she explores in her portraits, as a lot of people can relate with these struggles and may feel more connected to Muholi due to this matter. It may also allow you to relate to what she represents. This can especially ring true for those of color and even those who possibly share Muholi’s same culture.

There have been many breakthroughs in the Black Lives Matter Movement as of recently; however, there is still so much more to be done. As many people have been doing, I have been trying to further educate myself and appreciate and support projects that align with this movement’s cause. This online art presentation was a great new experience for me. I had unfortunately never heard of Zanele Muholi up until this event. However, I am so glad that I did. Her art is very intriguing and important, and she shares a lot of her own issues which mirror a lot of what is happening right now in our society. She has given us a more real, intimate look into her life and those like her which has provided not only me but anyone who will accept and embrace it, a great learning opportunity. I highly recommend you to take a look at this art presentation, you can find the link at the end of this article. Also, I encourage you to stay more connected to the arts community by taking a look every so often at ArtsBoston and seeing what events intrigue you. You may even be surprised by how much you learn.

 1.) https://calendar.artsboston.org/

2.) https://coopergallery.fas.harvard.edu/somnyama-ngonyama