National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Zanele Muholi: Personae
South African artist Zanele Muholi refers to her work as “visual activism.” Muholi co-founded the Forum for Empowerment of Women (FEW) in 2002, and Inkanyiso, a forum for queer and visual (activist) media, in 2009. Muholi’s self-proclaimed mission is “to re-write a black queer and trans visual history of South Africa for the world to know of our resistance and existence at the height of hate crimes in South Africa and beyond.”
Zanele Muholi: Personae explores identity in two distinct bodies of work: Faces and Phases, a series Muholi began in 2006 and now comprising more than 300 images, documents the lives of black South African women who identify as lesbians. Somnyama Ngonyama, a series of self-portraits Muholi began in 2015, explores various historical stereotypes, suggested through pose, costume, and gesture. The Freedom Center installation includes a selection of “repeat portraits”—the same sitter photographed over a span of years—as well as videos, updating and complicating the evolving archive.
Zanele Muholi (b. 1972) is the winner of the 2016 ICP Infinity Award for Documentary Photography and Photojournalism.
Jackie Nickerson: August
Jackie Nickerson’s dignified portraits of African farm laborers are alive with perceptions of the physical and psychological impact of the surrounding agricultural landscape. Nickerson’s first body of work, Farm, was made over a three-year period in rural locations across southern Africa. Farm concentrates on how individual identity is improvised through clothing, expression, and attitude. Nickerson’s latest body of work, Terrain takes a broader view, focusing on laborers in relation to their environment and the raw materials cultivated there. In an interview for Cult magazine in 2013, Nickerson said, “Terrain is about us in the landscape, how we change the world we inhabit at every moment of our being human, and how, for better and for worse, the world that we make…changes who we are.”
Jackie Nickerson was born in Boston in 1960 and divides her time between Ireland and southern Africa. Nickerson was commissioned by Time to travel to Liberia to photograph the 2014 Person of the Year: The Ebola Fighters.
Robin Rhode: Three Films
South African, Berlin-based artist Robin Rhode engages a variety of visual languages—photography, performance, drawing, film—to construct lyrical narratives with social and political import and a good bit of poetry. Making use of everyday materials, such as soap, charcoal, chalk and paint, Rhode creates fantasy narratives, often with a Chaplin-esque character played by Rhode himself at the center of the drama. Coming of age in a newly post-apartheid South Africa, Rhode was exposed to many different forms of expression, namely, hip-hop, film, and popular sports, as well as the black community’s continued reliance on storytelling in the form of colorful murals. Rhode applies a hybrid street-based aesthetic to intervene in and transform urban landscapes into imaginary worlds.
Robin Rhode: Three Films features, in a continuous loop of approximately ten minutes, Rocks (2011), A Day in May (2013), and The Moon is Asleep (2016).
Born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1976, Rhode graduated from the South Africa School of Film, Television and Dramatic Arts, Johannesburg, in 2000. Rhode has had several solo exhibitions, notably at the Hayward Gallery, London (2008); the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio (2009); the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2010); the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia (2013).
Rhode’s film Open Court (2012) is also included in New Slideshow, a film exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center (October 6–9, 2016).