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Exhibit On Black, Queer Self-Portraiture Opens At Cummer Museum

Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
Somnyama Ngonyama II, Oslo, 2015 © Zanele Muholi. "

A new exhibit at the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens is celebrating the work of South African artist Zanele Muholi. The exhibit, a series of more than 80 self-portraits, explore themes like race, identity, human rights and social justice. 

Muholi was born in 1972 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The artist, who uses gender-neutral they/them pronouns, describes their mission as one to “rewrite a Black, queer and trans visual history of South Africa.” The exhibit is titled Somnyama Ngonyama, which is isiZulu for “Hail the Dark Lioness.” 

Muholi states, “I’m reclaiming my blackness, which I feel is continuously performed by the privileged other. My reality is that I do not mimic being Black; it is my skin, and the experience of being Black is deeply entrenched in me. Just like our ancestors, we live as Black people 365 days a year, and we should speak without fear.”

Muholi’s work has been shown in New York, Paris, Chicago, London, Cape Town and elsewhere. Jacksonville is the exhibit’s last stop on a tour through the United States.  

You can visit the exhibit from March 15 through June 20. Tickets and additional information about the exhibit are available on the Cummer’s website.

Contact Sydney Boles at, or on Twitter at@sydneyboles.

Sydney manages community engagement programs like WJCT News' Coronavirus Texting Service. Originally from the mountains of upstate New York, she relocated to Jacksonville from Kentucky, where she reported on Appalachia's coal industry.