By Anna Mann
The reception for Zanele Muholi’s “Faces and Phases” art exhibit took place on February 3. The gallery will continue through April 14 and centers around black South Africans that identify as LGBTI. The exhibit contains 22 gelatin silver print portraits of Muholi’s subjects along with stacks of their testimonies pulled from her book, “Faces and Phases.”
In addition to the photographs, a corner wall has a long list of hate crimes committed against LGBTI people and a large blackboard with powerful quotes from the individual’s testimonies.
Director of the University Art Gallery, professor Shelley MacLaren said that Women’s and Gender Studies professor Paige Schneider proposed that Sewanee host Muholi’s exhibit after seeing it in Brooklyn.
MacLaren asserted that she was, “concerned about the balance between text and image” while setting up the exhibit. Therefore, she decided to place the list of hate crimes in the corner to highlight the strength of these people in light of their suffering.
“The power of the individuals serves as an antidote to the hate from the quotes. I love their strength, their gaze and how Muholi has framed each person as an individual. Everybody is dressed very distinctively. Everyone is an individual and yet they all rhyme,” MacLaren concluded about the personality found in each portrait.
Isabel Hale (C’20) works in the University art gallery and picked up on the organization of the pictures early on. Hale stated, “when I looked at the pictures and then checked out the timeline afterward it hit me really hard.”
MacLaren explained that the Global Gender Issues class picked the quotes for the blackboard with this purpose in mind. Schneider sent copies of the testimonies to her class, had them pick several for the gallery to include, and then write them on the chalkboard prior to the gallery opening.
Monte Butler (C’17), a student in the Global Gender Issues class stated, “we’ve been focusing on women of color and having their voices heard. That’s really what this art exhibit does.”
Butler went on to talk about the issues addressed in the exhibit saying, “the pieces focus on not just looking at an issue but really looking at the fact that this a person staring back at you. It deals a lot with what we’re struggling with in the US right now, complacency. Yes, people are dying, but what are you doing about it in your position of power?”
He wrapped up his thoughts on the gallery by expressing that “this was her response to all this oppression happening to South African women and queer people. She wanted to shed light on more than this person died or that person died, but really just showing as resistance that these people have stories that this pain is only a phase, there’s more to the story than these people being killed.”
- “The power of the individuals serves as an antidote to the hate from the quotes.” -Shelley MacLaren
- “It deals a lot with what we’re struggling with in the US right now, complacency.” -Monte Butler