Zanele Muholi celebrates South Africa’s Black LGBTI communities in LA and London

Zanele Muholi's portraits and sculptures are currently on show at Southern Guild Los Angeles and the Tate Modern, London

Artist Zanele Muholi wrapped in bronze tubing
In Bambatha I, Zanele Muholi’s body is trapped by malignant bronze tubing
(Image credit: Courtesy of Hayden Phipps & Southern Guild)

Artist and visual activist Zanele Muholi celebrates the lives of South Africa’s Black LGBTI communities in a series of arresting portraits that aim to offset the stigma around queer identity in African society. 

woman wrapped in materials

Khayalami VII, Milan, Italy 2023

(Image credit: Courtesy of Hayden Phipps & Southern Guild)

Now, Muholi is exhibiting new bronze sculptures and adding to their self-portrait series, Somnyama Ngonyama (examples from which were shown in New York in 2021, alongside Muholi’s paintings) at their retrospective at Southern Guild, Los Angeles.

Muholi considers their own form in portraits taken all around the world, in new work that gently subverts the quotidian, whether wearing crowns of clothesline pins, bed sheet cloaks or lipstick made from toothpaste and vaseline. 

woman wrapped in materials

Khayalami II, Room 120 Art Hotel Navigli, Milan, Italy 2023

(Image credit: Courtesy of Hayden Phipps & Southern Guild)

Ultimately uplifting, Muholi’s work emphasises a new positivity, aiming ‘to rewrite a Black queer and trans visual history of South Africa for the world to know of our resistance and existence at the height of hate crimes in SA and beyond’.

The Southern Guild Los Angeles exhibition, ‘Zanele Muholi’, is on until 30 August 2024, southernguild.com

‘Zanele Muholi’ at Tate Modern is on show until 26 January 2025, tate.org.uk

A version of this article appears in the July 2024 issue of Wallpaper*, available in print, on the Wallpaper* app on Apple iOS, and to subscribers of Apple News +. Subscribe to Wallpaper* today

Hannah Silver is the Art, Culture, Watches & Jewellery Editor of Wallpaper*. Since joining in 2019, she has overseen offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, and written extensively across the worlds of culture and luxury. She enjoys meeting artists and designers, viewing exhibitions and conducting interviews on her frequent travels.