The Cooper Gallery
Closed until further notice
OPEN: Monday - Friday, 11AM- 6PMADMISSION: Free to the Public
CLOSED: Saturday, Sunday, & Official Harvard University Holidays
ADDRESS: 102 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
- Harvard Gazette: 'The soul of a jazz man'
- Boston Globe: 'Black history is for sale in Chicago. Whoever owns the culture, controls the narrative'
- Bloomberg: 'Alicia Keys, Swizz Beatz Snap Up Work From In-Demand Artist'
- Hyperallergic: 'An Exhibition of Gordon Parks’s Photography Suggests New Roles for African-American Collectors'
We respect your privacy.
Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail the Dark Lioness
Curated by Renée Mussai
An Autograph Traveling Exhibition
In more than 80 self-portraits, celebrated visual activist Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972), uses their body as a canvas to confront the deeply personal politics of race and representation in the visual archive. In Somnyama Ngonyama, which translates from isiZulu to ‘Hail The Dark Lioness’, Muholi playfully employs the conventions of classical painting, fashion photography, and the familiar tropes of ethnographic imagery to rearticulate contemporary identity politics. Each black and white self-portrait asks critical questions about social (in)justice, human rights, and contested representations of the Black body.
Taken in cities across Europe, North America, Asia, and Africa, Muholi's socially engaged, radical brand of self-portraiture transforms found objects and quotidian materials into dramatic and historically loaded props, merging the political with the personal, aesthetics with history - often commenting on specific events in South Africa’s past, as well as urgent global concerns pertinent to our present times: scouring pads and latex gloves address themes of domestic servitude while alluding to sexual politics, cultural violence, and the often suffocating prisms of gendered identities. Rubber tires, cable ties, or electrical cords invoke forms of social brutality and exploitation; sheets of plastic and polythene draw attention to environmental issues and global waste, while accessories like cowrie shells and beaded fly whisks highlight Western fascinations with clichéd, exoticized representations of African cultures.
Throughout the series, the dark complexion of Muholi’s skin becomes the focal point of profound visual interrogations into matters of beauty, pride, desire, self-care and the many interlinked phobias, and isms navigated daily such as homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, racism, and sexism.
CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE
To our visitors,
We continue to monitor the evolving coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and prioritize the safety of our visitors, staff, students and volunteers. In the interests of reducing the number of people on campus and slowing the opportunity for transmission, the university museums and libraries are closing to the public, at the end of business on Thursday, March 12 until further notice. This includes the Cooper Gallery. This is in alignment with the closing of many other Boston-area public museums.
Over the next few weeks we will be assessing the situation and reviewing options for when we will be able to re-open to the public.
This decision has been carefully considered, as we know museums are community spaces. To continue to provide options for learning and reflection, we would like to direct you to explore our online resources.
We appreciate your understanding as we do our part to mitigate the spread of the virus in our community. In this we are following the lead of Harvard University, which is transitioning to remote learning and asking students not to return to campus following Spring Recess.