NDSM Billboards | Zanele Muholi

The three large billboards that are scattered at the NDSM have been updated with work by none other than South African photographer Zanele Muholi (they/them). Muholi is a committed photographer who – through an activist lens – explores and documents the black LGBTQI identity in South Africa.

For over two decades, Muholi has been capturing black queer, transgender and intersex people through their lens which has resulted in powerful contrasting black and white portraits by which they reclaim the meaning of ‘blackness’ and undermine the cliché, stereotyping images of black people. Their work is an honest representation of black and queer identity of which the multiplicity is shown in a celebratory manner. The people in their photographs are not “just” models to them, but rather participants who contribute as much to the picture as they do themselves.

The works shown at the NDSM are all self-portraits of the artist with Muholi directly staring into the camera, or rather, the viewer’s eyes in two of them. Muholi increased the contrast of the images which emphasises the colour of their skin. Furthermore, in each photo – by using everyday subject matter – Muholi takes on another guise which transforms them into different characters. In the work ‘Kodwa I, Amsterdam’ (2017) the artist is draped in hair by which they once again confront stereotypes of Africans.

Over the years, their work has been exhibited in leading museums worldwide such as Tate Modern in London and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. In 2017, Muholi debuted their photo series ‘Somnyama Ngonyama’ (Hail, the Dark Lioness) in the Netherlands at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam along with a selection of photos from their series ‘Faces and Phases’ and ‘Brave Beauties’. With multiple awards under their belt, Muholi has become one of the most acclaimed photographers of our time.

The compelling works now shown on the NDSM Billboards have been installed during Pride week Amsterdam and will be on display at the NDSM until mid-September.

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