Zanele Muholi

Zanele Muholi, the acclaimed photographic chronicler of LGBT life in South Africa, has lost camera equipment and her digital archives following a robbery.

Last month, Muholi returned to South Africa from a trip to Seoul, South Korea where her documentary Difficult Love was shown at a festival only to discovered that her Cape Town flat had been burgled.

The thieves stole cameras, lenses, laptops and memory sticks. Most devastating of all, she also lost all her work produced between 2008 and 2012, which was stored on various hard drives.

“It’s so painful. Five years of my life are gone… I’ve dedicated my entire life to documenting queer lives. All my major projects are gone,” a devastated Muholi told the Cape Times.

“I feel like a breathing zombie right now. I don’t even know where to start. I’m wasted. Whoever ransacked the place got away with more than 20 external hard drives with the most valuable content I’ve ever produced,” she wrote on Facebook.

Muholi urged people to look out for the hard drives at pawn shops and said she would pay a reward for their return. The drives are Toshiba, Western and Samsung drives and range from 320GB to 1TB in size.

An online campaign has been launched to raise funds to help Muholi replace her stolen equipment.

Muholi’s work has been exhibited and screened around the world and has won a number of international awards. In 2009 she was the Ida Ely Rubin Artist-in-Residence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

In 2010, South Africa’s Arts and Culture Minister Lulu Xingwana stormed out of an exhibition featuring Muholi’s photos of lesbian women embracing, describing the images as “pornographic”.

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