Zanele Muholi - Photographs London Friday, May 19, 2023 | Phillips
  • ‘‘We get caught up in other people’s worlds, and you never ask yourself how you became.’’
    —Zanele Muholi 

    In their ongoing series Somnyama Ngonyama, translated from Zulu as ‘Hail, the Dark Lioness’, South African visual activist Zanele Muholi (b.1972) becomes their own subject by transforming into a variety of characters that reference the politics of identity and the compounded suppression experienced as a result of racism and homophobia. By exaggerating the darkness of their skin tone, Muholi presents an alternative visual history that celebrates the beauty of black skin within the lexicon of classical painting and fashion photography.  


    In Sindile II, the artist poses lying on the bed of room 206 in Berlin’s Fjord Hotel – Muholi looks up at the ceiling with their arm and leg crossed over their naked body and hair cascading down along the edge of the bed. Unlike other images from the series, wherein their pose, gaze and choice of prop explicitly denote strength and composure, this work suggests vulnerability and quiet introspection. Nevertheless, in confronting the politics of race, gender and sexuality within a domestic space by turning the camera on themselves, they retain their power and authority. Muholi is a 2016 recipient of a Chevalier from l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and an Infinity Award from ICP, and their work resides in prominent institutions such as New York’s Guggenheim Museum and MoMA, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and London’s Tate Modern, which held their first major UK survey in 2020-2021. 

    • Provenance

      Stevenson, Cape Town

    • Literature

      Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness, New York: Aperture, 2018, pp. 100-101, 200



Sindile II, Room 206 Fjord Hotel, Berlin from Somnyama Ngonyama

Gelatin silver print, mounted.
Image/Sheet: 67 x 100 cm (26 3/8 x 39 3/8 in.)
Frame: 69 x 102 cm (27 1/8 x 40 1/8 in.)

Signed in ink, printed title, date and number 2/8 on a Certificate of Authenticity accompanying the work.

This work is number 2 from the sold-out edition of 8 + 2 APs. This image exists only in this size and edition.

Full Cataloguing

£18,000 - 22,000 

Sold for £30,480

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London Auction 19 May 2023