The Women’s Mobile Museum is a collaboration between the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center (PPAC), the South African visual activist Zanele Muholi, and ten Philadelphia artists who identify as women and femmes. Launched in 2018, this ambitious project came at a time when women were re-examining the barriers they face to achieving political and economic legitimacy and to effecting social change towards equal rights. The Women’s Mobile Museum included an artist residency for Muholi; a year-long, paid apprenticeship in the media arts for the participants; and an exhibition that toured the Juniata Park Boys and Girls Club, the Dixon House Community Center in Point Breeze, and the Pennsylvania Academy for the Fine Arts. The culminating exhibition of the Women’s Mobile Museum was on view at PPAC from January 24 – March 30, 2019.
The Women’s Mobile Museum was both a manifesto and a delivery system for reclaiming the space and function of creating art. It challenged the hierarchy of the art world and, more broadly, the intellectual world. The artists of the Women’s Mobile Museum envision a decolonized art museum that welcomes all people. Who is art for? Us too.
You can watch a series of short video portraits of Muholi and the ten Philadelphia artists on PPAC’s Vimeo page.
Zanele Muholi is a South African visual activist and photographer. Muholi’s self proclaimed mission is “to re-write a Black queer and trans visual history of South Africa for the world to know of our resistance and existence at the height of hate crimes in South Africa and beyond.” Muholi co-founded the Forum for Empowerment of Women (FEW) in 2002 and Inkanyiso (www.inkanyiso.org), a forum for queer and visual (activist) media, in 2009. Muholi studied Advanced Photography at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg, and in 2009 completed an MFA: Documentary Media at Ryerson University in Toronto. In 2013, they became an honorary professor at the University of the Arts/Hochschule für Künste Bremen. In 2017, Muholi was bestowed France’s highest cultural honor, the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts des Lettres. Recent exhibitions include the traveling show Somnyama Ngonyama (2017-2020), which premiered at Autograph, London, and currently on view at Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta. Their latest monograph was published in 2018 by Aperture Foundation, New York. Their work was shown at Performa, New York (2017); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2017); Brooklyn Museum, New York (2015); they were also included in the South African pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013); the São Paolo Biennial (2010); and documenta 13, Kassel (2013).
Renée Mussai is Senior Curator and Head of Curatorial, Archive, and Research at Autograph, London. A scholar-curator with a special interest in African, Black European, and diasporic lens-based practices, Mussai publishes and lectures internationally on photography, visual culture, curatorial activism, and cultural politics. She has been a regular guest curator and former nonresident fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, and is presently a Research Associate in the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre, University of Johannesburg, and part-time PhD candidate in Art History at University College London. Her writing has appeared in numerous artist monographs, anthologies, and journals; recent exhibitions (and publications) include the critically acclaimed and internationally touring gallery installations, ‘Black Chronicles’ (2014-2019), ‘Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness’ (2017-2021), and ‘Phoebe Boswell: The Space Between Things’ (2018/19). Mussai holds under- and postgraduate degrees in Photography from the University of the Arts, and previously studied at the University of Vienna, Austria.
Lindeka Qampi is a self-taught photographer who primarily works in the genre of street photography. In 2006, she made photography her career after joining a consortium of photographers known as Iliso Labantu. Since 2012, Qampi has worked as a project facilitator alongside fellow South African photographer and visual activist Zanele Muholi. In 2014 they co-organized Photo XP at Aurora Girls School, Soweto, introducing photography as a life skill and empowering tool to young women. In 2015, Qampi began photographing herself and immediate family with a new series of work entitled Inside My Heart. Qampi’s work has been exhibited internationally and is part of the collections in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Qampi is the co-recipient of the Brave Award (with Zanele Muholi, 2016), and the Mbokodo Award for Creative Photography (2015).
Lori Waselchuk is a visual storyteller whose photographs have appeared in print and online media worldwide. Her work is exhibited internationally and is part of many collections including the New Orleans Museum of Art, Portland Museum of Art, and South African National Gallery. Waselchuk also curates and coordinates exhibitions and special projects that prioritize creative social engagement. Most notable of those is Grace Before Dying, a collaborative photographic documentary about a hospice program in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Waselchuk coordinated The Philly Block Project with Hank Willis Thomas, PPAC’s 16-month visual collaboration with residents of the South Kensington neighborhood. Waselchuk is a recipient of the 2014 Leeway Foundation’s Transformation Award, the 2012 Pew Fellowship for the Arts, the Aaron Siskind Foundation’s 2009 Individual Photographer Fellowship, and the 2004 Southern African Gender and Media Award.
The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage is a multidisciplinary grantmaker and hub for knowledge-sharing, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, dedicated to fostering a vibrant cultural community in Greater Philadelphia. The Center invests in ambitious, imaginative, and catalytic work that showcases the region’s cultural vitality and enhances public life, and engages in an exchange of ideas concerning artistic and interpretive practice with a broad network of cultural practitioners and leaders. For more information, visit www.pewcenterarts.org.
The William Penn Foundation, founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that increase educational opportunities for children from low-income families, ensure a sustainable environment, foster creativity that enhances civic life, and advance philanthropy in the Philadelphia region. In partnership with others, the Foundation works to advance opportunity, ensure sustainability, and enable effective solutions. Since inception, the Foundation has made nearly 10,000 grants totaling over $1.6 billion.
VIA Art Fund is a non-profit organization where art patrons join forces as partners in a new model of philanthropy to support Visionary Initiatives in Art.