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Three very good reasons to visit the Norval Foundation. 

  • An exploration of the evolution of Zanele Muholi’s practice
  • Alt and Omega: Jackson Hlungwani, a sculpture retrospective
  • An exploration of Xhosa cosmology with iiNyanga Zonyaka (The Lunar Songbook): Athi-Patra Ruga

With so much to explore, let’s start with Zanele Muholi and then report back about the other two exhibitions separately.

And then you see yourself: Zanele Muholi

Zanele 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 SA and beyond’.

And then you see yourself: Zanele Muholi, is an exhibition exploring the evolution of the South African visual activist and photographer’s practice, from the early 2000s to the present. And then you see yourself looks at the most recent Somnyama Ngonyama series through the lens of Muholi’s earlier works.

Zanele Muholi, Norval FoundationLoosely chronological, a narrative about racial identity through self-portraiture unfolds over two decades, beginning in intimate, domestic, and sacred private space, and shifting to the public domain. The exhibition opens with a video entitled EyeMe (2012), a grid of staring eyes, which sets the tone for a consideration of the nature of seeing and being seen. Intended as recognition of victims of violence, the work was made in the year of the Marikana massacre and other acts of brutality. It highlights the tension between personal vision, legislative witnessing and systemic blind spots.

The exhibition follows a path leading from intimate snapshots, portraying personal notions of identity, to the visually refined portraits of a shapeshifting, mythologised subject located in the public imagination. It is a journey from private domain into public sphere. Throughout the exhibition there is a consideration, not just of Muholi’s identity, but of our own identities and the ways in which we construct them and change them based on who is looking. Muholi’s work as a visual activist advocates for the human rights of Queer and Black people, but it does so by confronting audiences with their own façade and their own gaze.

A desire to effect change through visual media is at the heart of Muholi’s practice. They continue to train and co-facilitate photography workshops for young women from townships across South Africa. In 2002 they co-founded Forum for Empowerment of Women (FEW) and in 2009, they founded Inkanyiso, a forum for queer and visual (activist) media.

The exhibition follows Muholi’s path from intimate snapshots of personal identity to the visually sleek portraits of a shapeshifting, mythologised subject located in the public imagination. It is a journey from private domain into public sphere. Throughout the exhibition there is a consideration, not just of Muholi’s identity, but of our own and the ways in which we construct and change them based on who is looking.

Muholi’s work as a visual activist primarily advocates for the human rights of queer and Black people, but it does so by confronting the entire audience with their own façade and gaze.

In light of the ongoing health crisis, an online public programme will accompany the exhibition over the course of its presentation with talks and screenings taking place online and under tightly controlled conditions at Norval Foundation.

WHAT & WHEN: And then you see yourself: Zanele Muholi is curated by Owen Martin and Khanya Mashabela and appears alongside Alt and Omega: Jackson Hlungwani and iiNyanga Zonyaka (The Lunar Songbook): Athi-Patra Ruga, running until 18 January 2021.  HOURS; Open 10am – 6pm every day, except Tuesdays

WHERE: Norval Foundation 4 Steenberg Rd, Steenberg Estate, Cape Town, 7945

COVID-19 PROTOCOLS: Under Level 1 Lockdown Norval Foundation is allowed 50% of capacity at the museum at a time (300 people – however they don’t usually go over that over a whole day!), sanitising stations are set up around the museum, social distancing is practiced and encouraged (quite easy in a space like Norval!) and they have a one-way route mapped out through the museum to prevent contact.

Norval Foundation

Norval Foundation is a centre for art and cultural expression, dedicated to the research, education and exhibition of 20th- and 21st-century visual art from South Africa and beyond. Located in the Steenberg area of Cape Town, adjacent to Table Mountain National Park, Norval Foundation combines the experience of art with an appreciation for nature.

The Sculpture Garden, outdoor amphitheatre, purpose-built exhibition spaces and research library are situated in a unique wetland setting and indigenous garden. The Skotnes Restaurant and Bar, a bespoke shop and a children’s playground extend the wealth of experience for visitors.

The Gerard Sekoto Foundation is based at Norval Foundation, as are the Edoardo Villa Estate Collection and the Alexis Preller Archive. Norval Foundation supports the idea that art has the power to enrich our lives and that artists contribute to our communities in a profound way. The Norval family are the founders and initial funders of Norval Foundation and their aim is to make art widely accessible to local and international visitors by creating a self-sustaining centre for art. The proceeds from capital donations are used to secure the Foundation for future generations.