(In)Visible Histories: Postcolonial Histories of Gender and Sexuality through the Lens of South African Visual Activism


  • Diana Vanesa Medina Godoy University of Birmingham




This article investigates the work of South African photographer and visual activist Zanele Muholi. I argue that what makes their visual project successful is a multiple engagement with the different histories and discourses that inform Black queer identities and experiences in South Africa. For this, I focus on a little-discusses image called ID Crisis from 2003, a black and white photograph of a Black woman binding her breasts. Using this picture as a starting point, the article explores the ways in which Muholi’s photography brings viewers into contact with transnational histories of Black queerness, from Western colonialism to the apartheid in South Africa. Throughout this discussion, I use the idea of (in)visibility as a guiding concept, understood as a simultaneous visibility and invisibility that allows Muholi to allude to several historical narratives without directly reproducing them. As such, it is this (in)visible articulation of history that allows Muholi to engage with Black queer histories and re-contextualise them from a Black queer perspective.