In describing Muholi’s current mid-career retrospective at the Tate Modern for The Guardian, Laura Cumming has written:
It would be an understatement to say these images make you think twice about race, colour, imperialist oppression, state cruelties – historic and continuous – of all kinds. Just to stand before any of the self-portraits in this lifetime survey is to be confronted by images of exceptional beauty – exquisitely lit, brilliantly conceived, in all their profound intelligence – yet never to be lost in simple admiration. This is an art of agency, meant to stir; this is portraiture as activism.
The prints and photographic murals featured in this exhibition facilitate access to the activist’s works in the wake of renewed travel restrictions. These recent and never-before-seen images from Somnyama Ngonyama continue Muholi’s discussions on race, politics and the pigment in historic and photographic archives. (Main mage: Aphelile IV, Durban, 2020_HR)
Taken in Botswana and Namibia respectively, Sondlo I and Tshatha form part of a suite of images created during a recent tour of Sub-Saharan countries as Muholi explored different means of commenting on colonial legacies within the series. Aphelile, translating from isiZulu as ‘they are finished’, features latex gloves and facemasks to directly address present fears about contagion and resource scarcity, while Thathu I employs symbolism allusively to evoke considerations concerning increased global surveillance as well as philosophical questions around the camera and the gaze.
Muholi’s most recent solo exhibition in the Netherlands took place at the Stedelijk Museum in 2017. The artist has previously lived in the city as part of the Thami Mnyele residency, to which they attribute early explorations into performative self-portraiture with series such as Miss Lesbian and Being (T)here. A poster version of Tshatha is available for sale.
19 February – 3 April 2021