Zanele Muholi

b. 1972, South Africa

Zinzi and Tozama I, Mowbray,
Cape Town
, 2010
Silver gelatin print
Edition of 8

Image courtesy Stevenson Gallery, South Africa

This image may be from a series by Muholi that is designed to document the intimate lives of homosexual people in South Africa, however, it connects with the role hair plays in her practice, when it shifts to fantasy self-portraiture.

In the Somnyama Ngonyama series, among other props Muholi uses their hair or hair pieces to manipulate their physical appearance and the viewer’s perceptions of them. This is driven not only by their interest in how gender, sexuality and identity is visually coded via adornment but how this is informed by traditional notions of beauty.  These ideas have been used to subjugate black women.

“As a black person you are being told constantly 'your hair isn't straight enough', 'you should look like this', 'you should look like that,” observed Muholi in an interview published on the Tate Museum website.