phaphama at cassilhaus, nc, 2016
b. 1972, South Africa
Phaphama at Cassilhaus, NC, 2016
Decal mounted on wall 13 x 9 ft.
Courtesy of the artist and Yancey Richardson Gallery
Zanele Muholi is a visual activist whose photography, video, and installation works are embedded with self-portraiture and visceral advocacy for the queer community in South Africa. Muholi’s mission in their work is “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 South Africa and beyond.” Muholi often turns the camera on themself, becoming both participant and the image-maker, experimenting with different characters in reference to specific events in South Africa’s political history. Utilizing strikingly symbolic poses and props, Muholi reflects upon themes of labor, racism, and sexual politics, while the exaggeration of skin tone is used to reclaim their blackness, challenging the oppressive standards people of color face in today’s popular culture. Meaning “awake” in Zulu, Phaphama, a persona created by Muholi during a residency in North Carolina, wears a leopard print vest, a velvet jacket and a bow tie.