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Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail the Dark Lioness showcasing the injustices faced by South African people of color

South African visual artist, activist, and photographer Zanele Muholi took 365 self-portraits for her series titled ‘Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail the Dark Lioness’, to bring to attention the injustices faced by South African people of color.

Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness is the long-awaited monograph from one of the most powerful visual activists of our time. The book features over ninety of Muholi’s evocative self-portraits, each image drafted from material props in Muholi’s immediate environment. These portraits reflect the journey, self-image, and possibilities of a black woman in today’s global society.

A powerfully arresting collection of work, Muholi’s radical statements of identity, race, and resistance are a direct response to contemporary and historical racisms. As Muholi states, “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.”

With more than twenty written contributions from curators, poets, and authors, alongside luxurious tritone reproductions of Muholi’s images, Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness is as much a manifesto of resistance as it is an autobiographical, artistic statement.

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