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MEDIA IGNORE THEFT OF PHOTOGRAPHER’S WORK DOCUMENTING BLACK LESBIAN LIVES

in SOUTH AFRICA, 22/05/2012

An award winning photographer who has devoted her working life to documenting the lives of black lesbians has had five years worth of her work stolen. Zanele Muholi, described by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa as “one of the country’s foremost artists”, had more than 20 external hard drives stolen from her flat in Vredehoek, Cape Town on April 20.

The hard drives contain stills and video footage, including photos from the funerals of victims of homophobic hate crimes. It is thought that the burglars were targeting Muholi’s work, as little else was taken from her flat, and back up hard drives were also taken.

Muholi’s partner Liesl Theron, with whom she shares the flat, said that her possessions were left untouched, except for a laptop which was stolen, further fuelling belief that Muholi was the intended target of the crime.

The work taken had been captured across South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Malawi, according to the Cape Times. Also stolen was work due to be shown at an exhibition in July, which Muholi believes she will now have to cancel.

Despite the volume of work stolen and the imminence of the planned exhibition, Muholi’s plight has been largely ignored by the media. It is believed that the lack of publicity is due to the nature of her work, which shows a different side to the black lesbian community than that usually represented in the mainstream media.

“I’m not myself. I can’t even sleep at night since I’ve heard about the burglary,” the devastated Muholi told DIVA. She has appealed for anyone who knows the whereabouts of the hard drives toreturn them.

Queer photographer Del LaGrace Volcano said of the theft; “Zanele’s work is, in my not so humble opinion, some of the most important work being produced, not just in Africa, but anywhere. I consider her a dear friend and mourn the loss of her archive as if it were my own.”

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