Women’s day Lecture 2014

Zanele Muholi was invited by the Gender Studies programme (Centre for Africa Studies) to present a lecture on her visual activism and documentary photography for the 2014 Women’s Day Lecture at the University of the Free State.

Muholi has produced a substantial body of work by documenting the lives and stories of South African LGBT individuals with a specific focus on queering the gaze. Muholi was born in Umlazi, Durban, in 1972. Prior to her photographic journeys into black female sexualities and genders in Africa, she worked as a human/lesbian rights activist with members in her community, raising the many issues facing black lesbian women living in South Africa today.

In 2002, she co-founded the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW), a black lesbian organisation based in Gauteng, dedicated to providing a safe space for women loving women to meet and organise. She then spent more than three years researching and documenting hate crimes in order to bring the realities of ‘curative rape’, assault, HIV and brutal murders of black lesbians to public attention.

Muholi completed an Advanced Photography course at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown in 2003, and held her first solo exhibition at the Johannesburg Art Gallery in 2004. Between 2007 and 2009, she studied for her MFA in Documentary Media at Ryerson University in Toronto, producing a thesis that maps the visual history of black lesbian identity and politics in post-apartheid South Africa.

In 2009 Muholi was a Jean-Paul Blachère award-winner at the Rencontres de Bamako, African Photography Biennial, also winning the Casa Africa award for best female photographer living in Africa. Two books have been published on her work: Only Half the Picture (2006), and Faces & Phases (2010). In 2009, Muholi founded the non-profit organisation ‘Inkanyiso’, which focuses on visual arts and media advocacy for and by the LGBT community. Muholi’s work focuses on queer politics, gender politics and politics of race.  

In the 2013 Human Rights Watch documentary titled ‘We Live in Fear’ Muholi speaks about the way in which ‘corrective rapes’ have become a binding factor for the LGBT community in South African townships as well as the importance of documenting the lives of lesbians who have become victims of hate crimes.  Muholi’s visual activism and photography affords her the opportunity to travel the world and speak about issues that continue to threaten the identities of sexual minorities in South Africa.

She is an Honorary Professor of the University of the Arts/Hochschule für Künste Bremen.

Muholi’s lecture was well attended and received by academic staff and students at the University of the Free State. Her lecture provided insight into the lived realities of black lesbians who have become victims of lesbophobic crimes in South Africa.

The Gender Studies programme was honoured to host this provocative lecture at the UFS, and will continue to invite lecturers in the field of gender, feminist, sexuality and queer studies to present on their research at the UFS Women’s Day events.


T: +27 51 401 2240 or humanities@ufs.ac.za

Marizanne Cloete: +27 51 401 2592

Katlego Mabulana: +27 51 401 2495
Juanita Hlongwane: +27 51 401 3269

Humanities photo next to contact block

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