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Book Launch

Zanele Muholi in Conversation with Deborah Willis at NYU

Thursday, September 27

6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Silver Center-NYU, Jurow Lecture Hall 100 Washington Square East, Room 101A, 1st floor New York, New York


Join Deborah Willis and Zanele Muholi in conversation to promote Muholi’s new book, Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail the Dark Lioness, at the Institute of African American Affairs (IAAA) & Center for Black Visual Culture (CBVC) at New York University (NYU).

Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness includes one hundred self-portraits created by one of the most powerful visual activists of our time. In each of the images, Muholi drafts material props from their immediate environment in an effort to reflect their journey, explore their own image and possibilities as a black woman in today’s global society, and—most important—to speak emphatically in response to contemporary and historical racisms.

As they state, “I am producing this photographic document to encourage individuals in my community to be brave enough to occupy spaces, brave enough to create without fear of being vilified. . . . To teach people about our history, to rethink what history is all about, to reclaim it for ourselves, to encourage people to use artistic tools such as cameras as weapons to fight back.” More than twenty curators, poets, and authors offer written contributions that draw out the layers of meaning and possible readings to accompany select images.

Cosponsored by Aperture Foundation and the NYU Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality (CSGS).

Image Caption: Zanele Muholi, Bester I, Mayotte, 2015; from Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness (Aperture, 2018).

About Zanele Muholi

Zanele Muholi is a visual activist and photographer, co-founder of the Forum for the Empowerment of Women, and founder of Inkanyiso, a forum for queer and visual media. Muholi has won numerous awards for their work, including France’s prestigious Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2018); the ICP Infinity Award for Documentary and Photojournalism (2016); the Fine Prize for an emerging artist at the 2013 Carnegie International; a Prince Claus Award (2013); and both the Casa África award for best female photographer and a Fondation Blachère award at Les Rencontres de Bamako biennial of African photography (2009). Their Faces and Phases series was shown at dOCUMENTA (13) and the 55th Venice Biennale and was shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize in 2015. Muholi is an honorary professor at the University of the Arts Bremen, Germany. They are represented by Stevenson Gallery, Johannesburg, and Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York.

About Deborah Willis

Deborah Willis is a contemporary African American artist, photographer, curator of photography, photographic historian, author, and educator. Among her awards and honors, she was a 2000 MacArthur Fellow. Willis is University Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and has an affiliated appointment with the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Social & Cultural Africana Studies, where she teaches courses on Photography & Imaging, iconicity, and cultural histories visualizing the black body, women, and gender. Her research examines photography’s multifaceted histories, visual culture, the photographic history of slavery and emancipation, contemporary women photographers and beauty.

Zanele Muholi in Conversation with Deborah Willis at NYU