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Mobile StudiosZanele Muholi

May 29, 2019

One of five new films from the second wave of Art21’s 2019 programming

Visual activist Zanele Muholi explains the impetus behind creating what they call “mobile studios” to photograph members of the LGBTI community in South Africa. Freed from the limitations of a single studio space, Muholi travels to the homes and community spaces shared by the people depicted in their photographs. As a way to create work in which the participants feel most comfortable, these mobile studios allow Muholi to empower those around them, particularly the group of trans women featured in the Brave Beauties series.

When the Brave Beauties photographs are exhibited at Stevenson Gallery in Cape Town, Muholi invites the participants to visit the show and write testimonials directly on the gallery wall, so that viewers may learn more about their lives. As the participants explain, this act allows them to be seen and to speak for themselves. For Muholi, the photographs and the “activist wall” not only give voices to trans women in arts spaces but also write them into South Africa’s history.

More information and credits

Credits

Producer: Ian Forster. Interview: Ian Forster. Editor: Morgan Riles. Colorist: Jonah Greenstein. Camera: Marco King & Motheo Moeng (SASC). Sound: Ruan van Tonder. Assistant Camera: Matome Thomo. Field Producer: Thuli Lote. Artwork Courtesy: Zanele Muholi, Stevenson Gallery, Yancey Richardson. Special Thanks: Brave Beauties & Faces & Phases participants.

Extended Play is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; the Art21 Contemporary Council; and by individual contributors.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Licensing

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Zanele Muholi

Zanele Muholi was born in Umlazi, a township southwest of Durban, South Africa, in 1972. From self-portraiture to photographs of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people living in South Africa, Muholi creates work that asserts the presence of South Africa’s historically marginalized and discriminated LGBTI community. Both joyful and courageous, Muholi self-identifies as a visual activist, driven by a dedication to owning their voice, identity, and history and providing space for others in their community to do the same.

“It’s my own way of writing South African LGBTI history. So I don’t want to be limited by anything. I don’t want to be in any studio. I want to be unplugged.”

Zanele Muholi

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