I came across Zanele Muholi in an article posted by the Guardian on 21st March, commending her for the award she received from the Index on Censorship for her “courage and the powerful statements made by her work.” Zanele is a photographer who has documented the lives of black lesbians in South Africa over the last 10 years. Examples of her work can be found on her website: http://www.zanelemuholi.com/
In South Africa, hate crimes against members of the LGBT community is still prevalent, including ‘corrective rape’ of lesbians. This is despite legislation, introduced in 1996, that prohibited discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. That there is a higher prevalence of AIDS and HIV in South Africa and other countries on the African continent than in the West is common knowledge. But statistics don’t speak about the people behind them, and it is this community that Zanele Muholi visualises in her photography. Here the artist writes about her feelings on the invisibility of black lesbians in the South African queer community, and the cultural and historical reasons behind the oppression of homosexuality within the black community as a whole.
Muholi offers an intimate and inter-personal vision of black lesbians, something which I believe strongly that the mainstream media should emulate more often. Here’s an image depicting some of the photos from Muholi’s Faces and Phases project: