Faces and Phases

Zanele Muholi

Zanele Muholi’s Faces and Phases aims to address the representation of black lesbian and queer identity, focusing largely on post-apartheid South Africa. This ongoing series of large-format black-and-white photographs includes more than 240 portraits, of which 36 are presented in this exhibition. As a visual activist for the rights of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) people in South Africa, Muholi endeavours to radically change the conventional perception of lesbian and transgender communities, who suffer from an epidemic of continuous attacks: “corrective” and “curative” rapes, physical and psychological assaults, and hate crimes. Working from and for her own community, Muholi creates strong, beautiful, and positive images of empowered individuals. As visual statements, her photographs dignify the members of an often hidden, voiceless, and marginalized population. The verticality and large scale of the prints accentuate the figures’ resilience, purposely confronting viewers with their scrutinizing gaze. The powerful images support and promote self-expression and pride, shaping and claiming a black lesbian and transgender visibility.


Organized by the Ryerson Image Centre

Curated by Dr. Gaëlle Morel