May 16th, 2012

Theft of South African Photog’s Work May Be Attempt to Silence Her

Burglars broke into the Cape Town, South Africa, apartment of award-winning photographer Zanele Muholi and stole more than 20 external hard drives and other computer equipment, according to a report in the Cape Times.

Muholi has documented the lives of black lesbians in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Uganda, and has received awards and recognition in South Africa and abroad.

According to reports, hard drives and computers containing her archive of still photographs and video footage, representing more than five years’ worth of work, were the only things stolen from the apartment, fueling speculation that the theft was a targeted attempt to silence an artist who has been as controversial as she has been celebrated. Among the contents of the stolen hard drives were photographs of the funerals of lesbians killed in hate crimes.

The theft occurred on April 20 and the investigation is said to be ongoing.

Muholi did back up her work, but the back-up hard drives were kept in the same apartment and were also stolen, she told the Cape Times. The theft is a tragic reminder of the benefit of storing archives and backups in more than one location.