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Playing in the Dark: A round table in-conversation with Zanele Muholi

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Paine Hall

3 Oxford Street

Cambridge, MA 02138

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In conversation round table discussion with image projections and musical intervals featuring artist Zanele Muholi & curator Renée Mussai.

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In conversation round table discussion with image projections and musical intervals featuring artist Zanele Muholi, curator Renée Mussai and Professor Hlonipha Mokoena and guests.

An autograph traveling exhibition curated by Renée Mussai.

Part of the Autograph Traveling Exhibition, "Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness, Zanele Muholi" opening at the Cooper Gallery on Friday, January 31st, at 6 pm.

In more than 70 photographs, visual activist Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972), uses their body as a canvas to confront the politics of race and representation in the visual archive. In Somnyama Ngonyama, which translates to ‘Hail The Dark Lioness’ in isiZulu, Muholi playfully employs the conventions of classical painting, fashion photography, and the familiar tropes of ethnographic imagery to rearticulate contemporary identity politics.Each black and white self-portrait asks critical questions about social (in)justice, human rights, and contested representations of the Black body.

By increasing the contrast in post-production, the dark complexion of Muholi’s skin becomes the focal point of interrogations of beauty, pride, desire, and interlinked phobias and isms that must be navigated daily such as homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, racism, and sexism. The photographs were taken between 2014 and 2017 in Europe, North America, Asia, and Africa. In Muholi’s work, found objects are transformed from the everyday into dramatic and historically loaded props, merging the political with the aesthetic. Scouring pads and latex gloves address themes of domestic servitude while alluding to sexual politics, violence, and the often-suffocating prisms of gendered identity. Rubber tires, cable ties, or electrical cords invoke forms of social brutality and exploitation, often commenting on events in South Africa’s history. Materials such as plastic draw attention to environmental issues and global waste. Accessories like cowrie shells and beaded fly whisks highlight Western fascinations with clichéd, exoticized representations of African cultures.

Free and Open to the Public.

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Paine Hall

3 Oxford Street

Cambridge, MA 02138

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