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Sept 15 - Oct 28, 2023, Poznan (PL)

'Somnyama Ngonyama', which translates to 'Hail the Dark Lioness' in Zulu, is one of Zanele Muholi's most celebrated photographic series, a poignant and profoundly personal exploration of Black identity and the politics of race and representation. Presented from 2012 to 2015, 'Somnyama Ngonyama' consists of over 300 self-portraits of Muholi, where they themselves become the canvas to delve into themes of labor, racism, Eurocentrism, and sexual politics. What makes this series distinctive is how Muholi uses their body and personal experiences as a locus of visual activism to probe and challenge the stereotypical portrayal of the Black body. The self-portraits are characterized by the extreme contrast in the images, making the artist's skin seem darker than it is. This deliberate manipulation is a critique of the black figure's objectification in Western art and a reclaiming of the narrative surrounding Black identity. In each image, Muholi uses different materials and objects, such as plastic, rubber, and fabrics, often sourced from their immediate surroundings. These props, often associated with domestic work, manual labor, or rites of passage, become symbolic markers weaving a broader commentary on gender, race, and the socio-economic conditions in South Africa. Despite the powerful and often harsh imagery, there is an undeniable beauty in Muholi's work. The intricate compositions, combined with the expressive strength of the artist, create an ethereal blend of artistry and activism, inducing the viewer to reflect and rethink their understanding of identity and representation. 'Somnyama Ngonyama' is a testament to Muholi's audacious and unwavering commitment to visual activism. It acts as an essential platform to confront and challenge societal norms, racism, and the political landscape, making it an integral part of contemporary art dialogue. Each image in 'Somnyama Ngonyama' tells a story, a personal narrative that transcends beyond the frame, resonating with a collective memory of struggle, resistance, and existence. It remains a powerful contribution to the art world, encapsulating Zanele Muholi's unique blend of artistry and activism, breaking barriers and pushing boundaries.

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