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Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness
Zanele Muholi, Bester I, Mayotte, 2015. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York

Zanele Muholi »

Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness

Exhibition: – 24 Jul 2018

New Art Exchange

Gregory Boulevard
NG7 6BE Nottingham

0115 -924 8630


Mon-Fri 9-18, Sat 10-17, Sun 10-16

Zanele Muholi:
Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness

An Autograph touring exhibition
28 April - 24 July 2018

“I’m reclaiming my blackness, which I feel is continuously performed by the privileged ‘other’. My reality is that I do not mimic being black; it is my skin, and the experience of being black is deeply entrenched in me. Just like our ancestors, we live as black people 365 days a year, and we should speak without fear." - Zanele Muholi

South African visual activist Zanele Muholi presents their ongoing self-portrait series Somnyama Ngonyama (meaning Hail, the Dark Lioness in isiZulu, one of the eleven official languages in South Africa).

Taken primarily between 2014 and 2017, each portrait in Somnyama Ngonyama poses critical questions about social justice, human rights and contested representations of the black body.

Muholi’s self-reflective and psychologically charged portraits are unapologetic in their artistry as they explore different archetypes / personae and offer visual reflections inspired by personal experiences and socio-political events. By increasing the contrast in the dark complexion of their skin, Muholi interrogates complex representations of blackness and being, beauty and desire. Gazing defiantly at the camera, Muholi continuously challenges the viewer’s perceptions, while firmly asserting their cultural identity on their own terms.

Ready-made objects and found materials are transformed into culturally loaded props, merging the political with the aesthetic – often commenting on specific events in South Africa’s recent history.

Scouring pads and latex gloves address themes of domestic servitude, while simultaneously alluding to sexual politics, violence against black bodiesand the suffocating prisms of gendered identity. Rubber tires, electrical cords or cable ties reference forms of social brutality and capitalist exploitation, and powerfully evoke the plight of workers – maids, miners and members of different disenfranchised communities.

Using a range of artefacts – from chopsticks, can lids and safety pins to plastic bags or polythene wrapping – Muholi draws attention to urgent environmental issues and toxic waste. Accessories such as cowrie shells or beads highlight Western fascinations with clichéd, exoticised representations of African cultures and people as well as the global economies of migration, commerce and labour.

Zanele Muholi, Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail, the Dark Lioness, is an Autograph ABP exhibition presented by New Art Exchange 28 April – 24 June 2018. Curated by Renée Mussai, Senior Curator and Head of Archive & Research at Autograph, London.

New Art Exchange is the largest centre in the UK dedicated to culturally diverse arts. It is rooted in the local community and has a strong history of working with internationally renowned contemporary artists. We are committed to stimulating new perspectives on the value of diversity within art and society.