Zanele Muholi - Nize nani

Written by Black Discourse
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Who: Zanele Muholi

What: Nize nani

Where: Online, Stevenson Gallery, Buchanan Building 160 Sir Lowry Road Woodstock Capetown South Africa

When: 28 October - 4 December, 2021

Via Stevenson Gallery:

Stevenson is proud to present Nize nani, a new solo exhibition by Zanele Muholi.

Comprising painting, sculpture and installation alongside photographic portrayals of intimate moments, Nize nani introduces new directions in Muholi’s visual activism. For their 13th exhibition with the gallery, they observe the ways in which interiority, tenderness and self-expression can be radical and unifying acts. Through these featured bodies of work, Muholi moves away from the iconographic forms of representation that have characterised their output in recent years.

Nize nani simultaneously translates from isiZulu to the statement ‘join us’ and to the question ‘what did you bring with you?’, while offering a meditation on being, belonging and the reality of physical existence in the midst of socially constructed divisions.

The exhibition begins with scenes of rest and vulnerability – in some Muholi is pictured alone, and in others they are embraced by their partner – which jointly foreground the ways in which repose and comfort are indiscriminate needs. This concept is articulated further in an installation taking the form of a bedroom, highlighting a shared need for safety and homemaking, as well as the forms of violence unique to this environment.

At the heart of Nize nani are paintings created with oil, acrylics, ink, menstrual blood and various other media. The compositions range across figuration, abstraction and text, yet all are iterations of portraiture. Muholi describes these works as simultaneously documentary and expressive; they capture emotional states, conceptual curiosities and constructed fantasies, marking a new chapter of the archive-building central to their practice. Muholi has stated:

Exploring with colour has a lot to do with healing, and in that way I’m taken out of my comfort zone. The mixture of colours determines the mood of the image, and the process of making the paintings is itself intuitive.

The abstract works form part of a series titled Imizwa yami, translating as ‘my feelings’, and in their colourful, geometric construction the works express the kaleidoscopic ways in which triumph and trauma accompany activism. Mahone, Alipheli and Phiwokuhle, Muholi’s figurative compositions, continue the explorations of personas and archetypes first seen in Somnyama Ngonyama, Miss Black Lesbian and Massa and Mina(h). In Nize nani these forms of seeing and exploring the self are taken further through a new sculpture set in bronze.

In Nize nani Muholi spotlights how the need for sleep, reproduction and creative self-actualisation recurs across humanity, beyond the divisions of race, class, gender and sexuality.

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Zanele Muholi - Nize nani