A choreographic response to Zanele Muholi’s
“Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail, the Dark Lioness”
This choreographic response to Zanele Muholi’s Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail, the Dark Lioness was performed by Spelman Dance Theatre, choreographed by T. Lang. In partnership with Autograph, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art presented the United States premiere of “Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness” from September 14 – December 8, 2018. In this internationally acclaimed exhibition featuring more than 70 photographs, visual activist Muholi, uses their body as a canvas to confront the politics of race and representation in the visual archive. Muholi’s psychologically charged portraits are unapologetic in their directness as they explore different archetypes, personal and collective histories, contemporary politics, and global events. “Somnyama Ngonyama” employs the conventions of classical painting, fashion photography, and the familiar tropes of ethnographic imagery to critically rearticulate contemporary identity politics. By increasing the contrast in the dark complexion of their skin, Muholi interrogates complex representations of beauty, pride, and desire. Gazing defiantly at the camera, Muholi challenges the viewer’s perceptions while firmly asserting their cultural identity on their own terms. “Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness” was organized by Autograph, London, and curated by Renée Mussai.