Muholi is a visual activist, humanitarian and photographer born in Umlazi, Durban. They currently live and work in Umbumbulu. Muholi’s self-proclaimed mission is ‘to re-write 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’. They are currently building the first dedicated arts school in KwaZulu Natal.
They (Muholi’s preferred pronoun) co-founded the Forum for Empowerment of Women (FEW) in 2002, and in 2009, also founded Inkanyiso (www.inkanyiso.org), a forum for queer and visual (activist) media. They continue to train and co-facilitate photography workshops for young women in the townships.
Muholi studied Advanced Photography at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg, and in 2009 completed an MFA: Documentary Media at Ryerson University, Toronto. In 2013, they became an Honorary Professor at the University of the Arts/Hochschule für Künste Bremen.
Awards and accolades received include the Spectrum International Prize for Photography (2020); Lucie Award for Humanitarian Photography (2019); the Rees Visionary Award by Amref Health Africa (2019); a fellowship from the Royal Photographic Society, UK (2018); France’s Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2017); the Mbokodo Award in the category of Visual Arts (2017); ICP Infinity Award for Documentary and Photojournalism (2016); Africa'Sout! Courage and Creativity Award (2016); Outstanding International Alumni Award from Ryerson University (2016); Fine Prize for an emerging artist at the 2013 Carnegie International; Prince Claus Award (2013); Index on Censorship - Freedom of Expression art award (2013); and the Casa Africa award for best female photographer, and Fondation Blachère award at Les Rencontres de Bamako biennial of African photography (2009).
Gropius Bau, Berlin and Bildmuseet, Umeå will present solo exhibitions by the activist from November 2021 and Zazise at the Sprengel Museum in Hannover continues until October. A survey exhibition of Muholi’s work took place at the Tate Modern, London, UK (2020-21) and previous solo presentations have taken place at institutions including the Cummer Museum, Florida, USA (2021); Norval Foundation, Cape Town, South Africa (2020); Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African and African American Art at Harvard University, USA (2020); Seattle Art Museum, USA (2019); Colby Museum, Maine, USA (2019); Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Georgia, USA (2018); New Art Exchange, Nottingham, UK (2018); Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires, Argentina (2018); LUMA Westbau, Zurich, Switzerland (2018); Fotografiska, Stockholm, Sweden (2018); Durban Art Gallery: a survey exhibition conceptualised as a homecoming, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa (2017); Market Photo Workshop, Johannesburg, South Africa (2017); Glasgow School of Art, Scotland (2017); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands (2017); Autograph ABP, London, UK (2017); Maitland Institute, Cape Town, South Africa (2017); North Carolina Museum of Art, USA (2016); Standard Bank Gallery, Makhanda, South Africa (2016); Gallatin Galleries, New York, USA (2016); Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool, UK (2015); Brooklyn Museum, New York, USA (2015); Akershus Kunstsenter, Norway (2015); Einsteinhaus, Ulm, Germany (2014); Schwules Museum, Berlin, Germany (2014); Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, USA (2014); and Casa Africa, Las Palmas, Spain (2011). The Faces and Phases series has been shown at the South African Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013); dOCUMENTA 13 (2012), and the 29th São Paulo Biennial (2010).
Muholi exhibited in May You Live in Interesting Times, the 58th Venice Biennale (2019); they produced a city-wide project titled Masihambisane - on Visual Activism for Performa 17, New York, USA (2017) and featured in the inaugural exhibitions at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town, South Africa.
Group shows include 31:Women, Daimler Art Collection, Berlin, Germany (2021); THIS IS NOT AFRICA – UNLEARN WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNED at ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark and Red Clay, Tamale, Ghana (2021); NIRIN, the 22nd Sydney Biennale (2020); African Cosmologies: Photography, Time, and the Other, 18th FotoFest Biennial, Houston, Texas, USA (2020); The Way She Looks: A History of Female Gazes in African Portraiture at the Ryerson Image Center, Toronto, Canada (2019); Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now at the Guggenheim, New York, USA (2019); Mirrors – The Reflected Self at Museum Rietberg Switzerland (2019); Yithi Laba at the Market Photo Workshop, Johannesburg, South Africa (2019); Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life, Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India (2018); Recent Histories, Huis Marseille and The Walther Collection, Amsterdam, the Netherlands (2018); Queering The Gaze at alphanova & galerie future, Berlin, Germany (2018); From Africa to the Americas: Face-to-face Picasso, Past and Present, at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Canada (2018); In Their Own Form, Museum Of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, USA; the 11th Mercosul Biennial in Porto Alegre, Brazil (2018); Plastic Entanglements: Ecology, Aesthetics, Materials at Pennsylvania State University, USA (2018); African Art Against the State at Williams College Museum of Art, USA (2018); Multiple Medium: Photographs from the Collection at the Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio, USA (2018); the National Gallery of Victoria Triennial, Melbourne, Australia (2017); Traversées Ren@rde, Transpalette Centre d'Art, France (2017); The Photographic I – Other Pictures, S.M.A.K Ghent, Belgium (2017); Structures of Identity, Museo Amparo, Mexico (2017); The Face: A Search for Clues, Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, Dresden, Germany (2017); Intimacy is Political: Sex, gender, language, power, Centro Cultural Metropoliano, Quito, Ecuador (2017); Art/Afrique, le nouvel atelier, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France (2017); Kyotographie International Photography Festival, Kyoto, Japan (2017); Personae, FotoFocus Biennial, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA (2016); Où poser la tête?, ICA Indian Ocean, Mauritius (2016); Second-Hand Reading: William Kentridge and Zanele Muholi , Mead Art Museum, Amherst, USA (2016); Supporting Alternative Visions, Prince Claus Fund Gallery, Amsterdam, the Netherlands (2016); Berlin Biennale, Germany (2016); Mina/Meg, Kulturhistorisk Museum, Oslo, Norway (2016); Systematically Open? New forms of production of the contemporary image, LUMA, Arles, France (2016); Reality of My Surroundings, Nasher Museum of Art, North Carolina, USA (2016); African Art Against the State, Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, USA (2016); After Eden/Après Eden - The Walther Collection, La Maison Rouge, Paris, France (2015); Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design, Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany, and Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain (2015); The Order of Things, The Walther Collection, Ulm, Germany (2014) and After Our Bodies Meet: From Resistance to Potentiality, Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York, USA (2014).
Muholi won the 2019 'Best Photography Book Award' by the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation for Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail, The Dark Lioness (Aperture), and was shortlisted for the 2015 Deutsche Börse Photography Prize for the publication Faces and Phases 2006-14 (Steidl/The Walther Collection). Other publications include Zanele Muholi: African Women Photographers #1 (Casa Africa and La Fábrica, 2011); Faces and Phases (Prestel, 2010); and Only half the picture (Stevenson, 2006).