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Ricki Kgositau, Melville, Johannesburg, 2013 (Faces and Phases series) (2013)

Zanele Muholi

silver gelatin print

Nottingham City Museums & Galleries

Ricki Kgositau, Melville, Johannesburg, 2013 (Faces and Phases series) (2013)

© Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of Stevenson. Cape Town and Johannesburg





Silver gelatin print


76.5 x 50.5 cm


Presented by the Contemporary Art Society through the Collections Fund at Frieze, 2019/20

Ownership history:

Purchased from Stevenson, South Africa by the Contemporary Art Society through its Collections Fund at Frieze, October 2019; presented to Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery, 2019/20


Black (presence)
Zanele Muholi (they/them) is a photographer and visual artist documenting the lives of black lesbian, trans, and gender non-conforming South Africans. Faces and Phases is a powerful series of portraits in stark black and white.

The photographs are highly political in line with Muholi’s role as a ‘visual activist’ yet, deeply personal often involving friends of the artist. They empower their sitters by granting them the dignity of presenting themselves to the world as they would like to be seen. The sitters look directly at the viewer, holding their gaze.

For Muholi, the act of mapping and preserving the presence of the LGBTQ+ community is one of resistance against oppression and the threat of violence. Despite the legalisation of same-sex marriage in 2006, discrimination and violence against the LGBTQ+ community remains commonplace and severe, therefore, Muholi’s sitters participate in the work at great personal risk.

Muholi responds to the absence of black LGBTQ+ people from South Africa’s visual history using documentation and the commemorative power of portraiture. The series is a testament to the presence and the resilience of the community. Of the eleven portraits that CAS has acquired, two are of sitters that have since passed away. Faces and Phases memorialises their loss and celebrates their lives.

The artist attempts to widen the scope of South Africa’s photographic history including people that have long been marginalised. In doing so, the work presents a continuing struggle for visibility and acceptance amidst threat.

The acquisition of the works by Nottingham Castle Museum will build on the Castle’s existing history of protest contributing a global perspective and a focus on the discrimination and violence faced by the LGBT+ community.

All rights reserved. Any further use will need to be cleared with the rights holder. Permission granted to reproduce for personal and educational use only. Commercial copying, hiring, lending is prohibited.

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