Zanele Muholi’s Absolutely Stunning Portraits of Queer Africa

Faces from visual artist Zanele Muholi's portraits of lesbian and transgender women in Africa.

By Jamilah King Jul 03, 2013

It’s often a dangerous act of rebellion to be openly queer in many African countries. Back in 2011, Frankie Edozien reported for Colorlines on the sometimes deadly concurrent rise of U.S.-backed evangelical Christianity and a growing sense of pride among many in Ghana’s LGBT community. A 2011 report Human Rights Watch Report documented the rise of "curative rape" in South Africa and criticized that country’s government for "desperately failing lesbian and transgender people."

Zanele Muholi is a visual artist based in Johannesburg, South Africa whose work focuses on sexuality. In 2006 she began a portraiture series called "Faces and Phases" that turns a different kind of celebratory spotlight on lesbian and transgender women in Africa. 

"I need to underscore that naming ourselves and ‘being’ is more than a fashion statement or a research topic," Muholi said while reflecting on her work in 2009, according to Creative Time Reports. "Rather, it is a political consciousness that we do not have a choice about. To be black, lesbian and African is by its very nature political in a world that is still overwhelmingly heterosexual."

Check out the stunning series of portraits after the jump.