© Ginger Liu Photography
Zanele Muholi at Vukani/Rise Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool
Vukani/Rise Exhibition at Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool
All photos by Zanele Muholi, used with permission.
GL: And of course, only they know what they were thinking at the time. ZM: We request people to write their stories and also to ask basic questions of how they are doing now and why they agreed to participate. GL: You seem to favor black and white photography in your practice. ZM: I was taught photography in black and white so I know how to shoot, develop and fix. My early work is in black and white which is partly currently on show at Liverpool Tate. I needed to have that timeless feel of our lives being there before I was born. If you had out black LGBTI individuals in the 1950s and ’60s, that photography is likely to be captured in black and white because of what was accessible back then. That sepia tonality would have been part of the document and the grain and the stain would have been part of the document. I like black and white. It’s a more classic and timeless feel that represents something that was, that existed before. Whereas color is present and it could be anything and any time. GL: Being visible is a common theme in your work. Why is it so important for the LGBTI community to be seen and heard in South Africa? ZM: In South Africa and Beyond. We don’t see many black faces at galleries abroad and in museums. People either have objects in different spaces that speaks to a different past. We don’t see much. That’s the whole point of making the invisible visible because we are part and parcel of whatever is happening in different spaces. So we as LGBTI people owe it ourselves to make sure that we are seen because to be seen means that we are recognized and recognition means that we are being respected and being respected means that our voices are heard. It’s not about flaunting the queerness or to exoticize the black gay man and black body. It is beyond just that. It’s time that we see ourselves positively and also in a manner that makes us feel whole and safe and sensible. Those voices connect and keep you going because you know that you are not alone. Before being lovers we come from families. We are born by men and women and I think that these are the documents that are lacking in the mainstream archive right now. Let us bring these voices and visuals to the fore. Bring them forward into the gallery spaces. We can’t limit it to our spaces and say this is only a LGBTI group. I don’t want to be projected in a limited space. I want to mainstream our issues so people understand and have some education around LGBTI people from home and beyond. I want to be remembered as a human being before my sexuality is fed into me. I want my work and the work featuring those that I respect, to be recognized beyond just naming. So it’s very political. I wish that LGBTI people and the mainstream society get the opportunity to see and ask questions and also to wonder where are your own people and why this work is here because each and every individual comes from somewhere. And each and every individual has their own life story to tell beyond just the body that is projected in your face. I want to make sure that we have a visual history that speaks to us and to the current generation and will inform future generations because the past is not easy to touch. GL: The After Tears project is a moving collection of portraits depicting the “Mo(u)rning” of gay activist Muntu Masombuka. Explain the image process and the impact these images have had. ZM: These are very enacted scenes where we had a night vigil remembering those that came before us who are no longer here. And it features individuals who are in Brave Beauties 2013-2014. So I needed to remember. You know, remembering again? Also having a memory and memorizing. And it’s simplified because you can tell in their faces that something has happened but you don’t know until you are told they are enacted scenes. And I could relate to one major case in which I could see how death connects LGBTI individuals when somebody has passed and then we don’t even need to wait for invitations to come to your funeral, it becomes automatic for us to be there and make sure that we mourn with the family. And we are basically saying, we remember you, we remember you. GL: Zava is a very personal group of images of you and your girlfriend. Is this something you intend to develop in the future? ZM: Like all my projects, Zava is continuous but it is really deeply personal. I’m in a long distance relationship so I don’t get to see my girlfriend every day because we are both busy and live in faraway places. She lives in Paris. So the two to three minutes that we get to be together, that’s when I really feel the beats that once again I’m with her. We’ve been working on this project tirelessly for the past three years and she is really someone that I love and I’m not posing with a model. This is me and her and that’s how I like to remember. Interviewed and edited by Ginger Liu Zanele Muholi http://inkanyiso.org Ginger Liu is a photographer, writer/editor and filmmaker based in Los Angeles and London. www.photo.gingerliu.com @gingerliu Zanele Muholi: Vukani/Rise 18 September – 29 November 2015 Open Eye Gallery 10.30 am – 5.30 pm, Tuesday to Sunday 19 Mann Island Liverpool Waterfront Liverpool L3 1BP +44 (0) 151 236 6768 www.openeye.org.uk