Could you imagine five years of your artwork gone, stolen in one moment?
Zanele Muholi fights against South African queerphobia and violence through photography and visual activism. She documents the presence of a community which is nearly invisible in the media—the black lesbian community. Since her break-out solo exhibition in Johannesburg, 2004, "Visual Sexuality: Only Half the Picture," Muholi has been praised for a prolific stream of work and activism. Muholi explains that she "challenges racialized silence about queer visual cultures," and in response to those who call her work "immoral," she says, "In art immortality cannot exist. Art is always sacred."
Sacred, indeed. On April 20th, 20 of Muholi's external hard drives, containing five years of photos, video footage, etc were stolen from her flat in Vredehoek, Cape Town. The stolen footage documented the funerals of homophobic-induced hate crimes and the lives of queer people all across South Africa, Uganda, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and more. All of her major projects and works are now gone. It is likely that
Muholi's upcoming solo exhibition, slated for July of this year, will be canceled. Five years of work gone, the theft is a monumentous loss for Muholi, the LGBTQ community, and the world of photography at large. Such a burglary raises questions as to whether Muholi is the victim of a hate crime- was she targeted? It appears that she was, little else was taken from the apartment. All of Muholi's partner Liesl Theron's belongings were untouched.
(Her latest piece, Izidwedwe as part of Insila Yomuntu (after Pistoletto))
Zanele Muholi is black, lesbian, woman, photographer, visual activist, and one of our most important contemporary artists. Her position on the world stage and in the art world is incredibly important, and her voice is distinct. Her work challenges the history and the view of black women's bodies and the queer community of South Africa.
The loss of her work is invaluable.
A IndieGoGo project has been started to help Muholi replace the equipment that was stolen: