Zanele Muholi in the MEP in 2023

Zanele Muholi in the MEP in 2023
SOMNYAMA_Bester V, Mayotte, 2015

Zanele Muholi
01.02.2023 ‒ 21.05.2023
Maison Européenne de la Photographie
5/7 rue de Fourcy 75004

It is with great pleasure that the MEP opens its doors to the visual activist Zanele Muholi, for the first retrospective presentation of their work in France. The MEP would like to thank Zanele, and all of their collaborators, for sharing this powerful and important project with our public in Paris, and also to thank our partners, principally at Tate Modern in London, for making the exhibition possible despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Zanele Muholi - Bester V, Mayotte, 2015
Bester V, Mayotte, 2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson,
Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

Zanele Muholi is that most unique of figures in the international contemporary art world: a powerful and original voice that transcends the boundaries of their own immediate interests and local sphere. Associated primarily with work over many years in the LGBTQIA+ and gender-nonconforming communities in South Africa, Muholi’s work has implications for questions of identity and political activism in the worlds of photography and art that reach, and echo, far beyond their origins and context.

LiZa I, 2009
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson,
Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

A primary and essential aspect of Muholi’s practice is how images associated with the visual arts might not only respond to pressing and urgent social questions (in other words, a question of documentation, the means of bringing a subject to the public), but how they might effect change in the world beyond that in which they were made. Since training at the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg, Muholi has never settled for an understanding of photography (or indeed video) associated with the limited conventions of traditional documentary practices.

Their work takes on the narrow concept of representing the realities of their subjects and reaches beyond, forcing us to think about, and often rethink, the ways in which representation itself might fall short for some communities and identities. Their practice in portraiture, portraits of both themself and others, offer ample evidence of both the ambition and efficacy of an approach which seeks, we could say, never to leave the possibility for an audience to be unaffected or unmoved by an encounter with it.

Cédrine Scheidig - Robi, 2020
Robi, 2020 – © Cédrine Scheidig

As ever, in conjunction with our major exhibition in the principal galleries, the MEP invites two exciting early-career artists to exhibit in The Studio, which, from 2023, is programmed by Clothilde Morette for the MEP with the continued generous support of Christian Dior Parfums. The first Studio is that of Cedrine Scheidig, laureate of the prix Dior for photography in 2021, who brings her own unique take on questions of race and identity in both her native Paris, and in new works made in Martinique.

The second Studio of the season marks the first solo exhibition in France of acclaimed American artist and filmmaker Diane Severin Nguyen, whose photographic work evokes questions of both material and categorical instability.

Diane Severin Nguyen - Influencer, 2020
Influencer, 2020
© Diane Severin Nguyen

The MEP is proud to bring together three artists working at the cutting edges of today’s image world for the start of a year of programming that will showcase the works of historic and contemporary women artists including Jay DeFeo, Maya Rochat and Viviane Sassen.

Simon Baker Director of the MEP

©2022 Zanele Muholi, MEP