Zanele Muholi, an internationally recognized visual activist, collaborated with Cape Town-based designer Gavin Raja on a homewares collection inspired by Muholi’s Somnyama Ngonyama (Hail, Dark Lioness) series, which sold out in its first week of release.

The collection, which includes cushions, rugs, throws, curtains and candles, are some of the products available for sale on July 18, 2022, which sold out in the first three days.

Most of the production was purchased in New York, San Francisco, Oslo and Rome, where Muholi is currently exhibiting.

The collection is an abstract of woven prints that Raja extrapolated from Muholi’s photo series.

But the images are not simply reproduced on the products, as has been the case with many homeware lines associated with iconic works of art.

The collection is inspired by Muholi’s vivid and iconic photographic works, which depict the artist as a subject in various guises, evoking her ancestors but also exploiting and subverting fashion and ethnographic photography associated with Africa.

The Somnyama Ngonyama series was first exhibited in 2015 at the artist’s galleries in South Africa and the US, but has since found audiences around the world from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Buenos Aires, Argentina to the Seattle Art Museum, USA. Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong.

Works from this series have also been featured in numerous museum reviews such as Tate Modern, London, UK (2020-21).

Homeware collection by Zanele Muholi in collaboration with Gavin Raja. Photo: Included

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This year, the exhibition will tour Europe in institutions in Paris, Berlin and UmeƄ in Sweden.

“The real power of Muholi’s project, which is a radical act of protest and restoration, is a deeply personal response … to the colonization and exoticization of the black female body by all those cameras that came before,” said Andrea Scott in the New Yorker . .

As an image maker and social activist of sorts, Raja was drawn to Muholi’s practice.

The Somnyama Ngonyama series particularly resonated with his visual sensibility.

His obsession with this series led him to discover black and white patterns in some monochromatic images.

His ambition to translate these hidden patterns into woven textiles and create a collection of home goods immediately appealed to Muholi.

“Gavin saw something in my images that I didn’t think of, and he doesn’t compromise the original work,” Muholy said.

Since creating a t-shirt line to coincide with Faces and Phases, an early series of portraits of black lesbians in South Africa, Muholi has been keen to find ways for their work to expand “into the world I live in”.

Raja found the essence of Muholi’s aesthetic in woven fabrics, mostly from recycled fibres, and they are visually unified – all black and white – and carry an African touch, although they are not “geographically defined”, he added.

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