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Race & Representation


Zanele Muholi: Art and activism

Reading Time: 16 minutes “To face the camera is to open a conversation, to make yourself both vulnerable and powerful at once,” says Muholi in an interview begun before lockdown, ahead of the South African artist’s planned survey exhibition at Tate Modern opening this autumn


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“It is only through the way in which we represent and imagine ourselves that we come to know how we are constituted and who we are,” wrote the British-Jamaican sociologist Stuart Hall. In other words, images don’t just show us things. They inform us on how to see ourselves and others.

Since the dawn of the medium, a photographer’s control over their subject – what to show and how to frame it – has rendered photography a partner of colonialism. Authentic experiences of Black and non-white people have been erased in lieu of objectification and fetishisation by the white gaze – but every day, new artists are taking back power.

From Nadine Ijewere’s vibrant celebration of Jamaican heritage to Zanele Muholi’s defiant representations of Black queerness in South Africa, the Race and Representation Collection champions radical reclamations of space and autonomy, both within the art world and outside of it.

In this collection: