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          Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness, Volume II
          Editorial
          Aperture publishes 'Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness, Volume II'

          22 May 2024 (3 min) read

          Aperture launches a highly anticipated second volume dedicated to Zanele Muholi's widely acclaimed self-portrait series, Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness, at a panel discussion and book signing at Southern Guild Los Angeles.

          In Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness, Volume II, Muholi explores and expands upon new personas and poetic interpretations of personhood, queerness, Blackness and the possibilities of self. Since the publication of the first volume in 2018, Muholi has continued to photograph themself in a range of new international locations. Drawing on material props found in each environment, they boldly explore their own image and innate possibilities as a Black individual in today’s global society, and – most important – speaks emphatically in response to contemporary and historical racisms.

          Renée Mussai, curator and historian, brings together written contributions from more than ten curators, poets, and authors, building a poetic and experimental framework that extends the idea of speculative futures and the potentiality of multivalent selves. Powerfully arresting, this collection further amplifies Muholi’s expressive and radical manifesto. As they state in the first volume, “My practice as a visual activist looks at Black resistance – existence as well as insistence.”

          Contributors include: Sophia Al-Maria, Natasha Becker, Phoebe Boswell, Tina M. Campt, Natsahs Ginwala, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Aluta Humbane, Ntsiki Jacobs, Khanyisile Mbongwa, Porsha Olayiwola, Lola Olufemi and Legacy Russell.

          The launch followed a panel discussion, 'The Unflinching Gaze: The Image, The Archive, and the Aesthetics of Resistance', which formed part of the gallery's programming around the artist's recently opened self-titled exhibition, ZANELE MUHOLI.

          Click here to order your copy through Southern Guild.

          MORE ABOUT THE SOMNYAMA NGONYAMA SERIES

          Somnyama Ngonyama, the ongoing self-portraiture series Muholi began in 2012, refuses the exoticising gaze. Whether using toothpaste mixed with Vaseline as lipstick or an assembly line of clothing pegs to form a headpiece, this body of work utilises elements of performance with the immediacy of both political protest and African informal trade and craft markets.

          The guerrilla nature with which these images are composed reveals the urgency to document the self: “Portraiture is my daily prayer,” Muholi says. Their hairstyles, costumes and sets are entirely self-realised, photographed with only natural light. Nomadic and impromptu, these shoots often take place alone. This ‘African ingenuity’ so adored by the West without understanding, is rooted in necessity. Muholi’s need is their manifesto for visibility: “This is no longer about me; it is about every female body that ever existed in my family. That never imagined that these dreams were possible.”

          This prolific project responds to the near invisibility of Black women and non-binary bodies as subjects of representation in the history of Western painting and portraiture prior to the 20th century. The series shifts the lens with Muholi becoming both participant and image-maker, and through experimenting with different characters and archetypes, the self-portraits reference specific events in South Africa’s political history. By exaggerating the darkness of their skin tone, Muholi also reclaims their Blackness and offsets the culturally dominant images of Black women in the media today.