Somnyama Ngonyama - Hail, The Dark Lioness

Seriously, one of my most favorite parts about living in London has got to be the art. There is so much art, exhibitions and inspirational things to do! I was walking to grab some brunch and passed by this stunning picture that caught my eye. I stopped in and looked around and over heard the amazing gallery assistant Asiya telling a couple girls that there was more upstairs. I was so hungry I decided I'd come back after brunch. Well Rivinington Mix was closed during regular business hours for some reason so to my disappointment, I had to go back with an empty tummy.


These images were so captivating. Although they told a story they really began to speak when I learned they were all self-portraits styled and shot by the subject and artist Zanele Muoli. Given the meaning behind the Zulu title Somnyama Ngonyama, which translates to Hail, The Dark Lioness I began to see so much of the meaning behind the quotes and the photos. 

She paid homage to her mother who was a maid and named 2 portraits after her and many others were named after important women in her life. She used many random parts and pieces to create crowns and style her look. Much of which you don't notice until you look very closely at the picture. Many elements speaking to the servitude of these women.

"Money Is Betrothed"

"Money Is Betrothed"

"Everyday objects are transformed into dramatic and historically loaded props, merging the political with the aesthetic. Scouring pads and latex gloves address themes of domestic servitude, while alluding to sexual politics, violence and the suffocating prisms of gendered identity. Rubber tyres, safety pins and protective goggles invoke forms of social brutality and exploitation, often commenting on events in South Africa’s history; materials such as plastic draw attention to environmental issues and global waste. Accessories like cowrie shells and beaded fly whisks highlight Western fascinations with clichéd, exoticised representations of African cultures." - Autograph ABP

There was something about her eyes. The way she was so powerful in the images but her eyes pierced right at you. I loved everything about this exhibit and what it stood for. I could see the time that went into taking all of these photos. She spent years creating these series of images from 2014 - 2017. 


"I’m reclaiming my blackness, which I feel is continuously performed by the privileged other. My reality is that I do not mimic being black; it is my skin, and the experience of being black is deeply entrenched in me. Just like our ancestors, we live as black people 365 days a year, and we should speak without fear." - Zanele Muholi

For more on the Autograph ABP and this exhibition click here