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Zanele Muholi: a fighting spirit that illuminates the dark


Zanele Muholi: a fighting spirit that illuminates the dark

The artist and activist talks about the changing face of activism in the wake of the pandemic

Nothemba Mkhondo

“Activism does not need to look the same all the time. Engaging with people on an emotional level, giving them the space to speak and feel heard matters the most at this moment when we are forced into isolation,” says non-binary SA photographer and LGBTQI activist Zanele Muholi.

Faced with our new, unexpected reality of life under lockdown, Muholi, who identifies as a visual activist, has been reflecting on the past and the present. “Plans to travel – for exhibitions, shooting with participants and organising workshops – have had to be put on hold so I have been taking time to pause and reflect over this harsh period. This pandemic has shown the deep inequalities in SA and around the world even more clearly, and it has also shown that, with effort, people can come together, they just need to be willing,” says Muholi.

Shining light on our unequal reality has always been at the centre of Muholi’s oeuvre. As their preferred title suggests, they are both an artist and an activist, and the interplay between these two strong forces of creation visually manifest differently across their bodies of work. The artist brings theatre and narrative and the activist anchors their work in reality and purpose. “There is no line. There is no separation. My work is political. I am a visual activist and art is a medium for my activism.”..

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