National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Hosting Three FotoFocus Biennial 2016 Exhibitions

Press Release

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Hosting 
Three FotoFocus Biennial 2016 Exhibitions 


Jamie Glavic
(513) 333-7511
(513) 802-7355

Assia Johnson
(513) 333-7555
(513) 787-2110


CINCINNATI, OH (September 22, 2016) – The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is hosting three FotoFocus Biennial 2016 photography exhibitions, Zanele Muholi: Personae, Jackie Nickerson: August and Robin Rhode: Three Films from October 1 - January 23, 2017These compelling solo exhibitions have been organized by FotoFocus and curated by Kevin Moore, Artistic Director and Curator of FotoFocus. The exhibitions are included in general admission to the museum and free during the month of October with a FotoFocus Passport.

The 2016 FotoFocus Biennial runs through the month of October throughout the greater Cincinnati region at participating museums, galleries, universities and community organizations. The opening week programming held October 6 – 9 features keynote lectures, talks and panel discussions with artists, curators and collaborators, along with screenings and performances all focused around the Biennial’s theme: Photography, the Undocument.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center presents three exhibitions that highlight South Africa and explore cultural and societal norms and black identity in this region and around the globe.

Zanele Muholi: Personae positions portraiture as a photographic mode with the power to both reveal and disguise through two bodies of the artist’s work: Faces and Phases, a series begun in 2006 that currently comprises more than 300 images and videos of black, South African women who identify as lesbians; and Somnyama Ngonyama, a series of self-portraits examining the nature of historical stereotypes through pose, costume, and gesture. Muholi’s self-proclaimed mission as an artist and activist is “to re-write a black queer and trans visual history of South Africa”, as reflected in her broad engagement with photography—from photojournalism to portraiture—to create compelling new narratives concerning identity and race. Muholi is this year’s winner of the ICP Infinity Award for documentary photography.

Jackie Nickerson: August features a collection of Nickerson’s dignified and vibrant portraits of African farm laborers. These works, captured over the course of a decade in two bodies of work—Farm (2002) and Terrain (2013)— depict the physical and psychological impact of agriculture in southern Africa. Terrain takes up the earlier concerns of Farm, which was made over a three-year period in Zimbabwe and other locations in southern Africa, expanding Farm’s examination of individual farmers to look more broadly at labor and the synergy between cultivation, workers, and the environment.

Robin Rhode: Three Films features three short films from the South African artist’s multi-media artistic practice: Rocks (2011), A Day in May (2013), and The Moon is Asleep (2016), which will be screened in a continuous loop. Utilizing a variety of visual languages—film, photography, performance, and drawing—to construct lyrical narratives of social and political import, Rhode’s works function as strategic interventions, transforming urban landscapes into imaginary worlds, while revealing underlying socioeconomic concerns in the documentation and representation of individual experience. The works featured in Three Films draw the quotidian into conversation with the imaginary, the historical with the contemporary, and high art forms, such as drawing, with so-called “low,” such as graffiti, identifying both parallels and dissonances that challenge pre-established notions of each.

“We are honored to participate in the FotoFocus Biennial 2016 and host these powerful exhibitions at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center,” says Dr. Clarence G. Newsome, president. “Each artist uniquely tackles challenging themes through their work and welcomes the viewer to discuss topics on race, identity and societal norms in a global context.”

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will host a reception for FotoFocus curated exhibitions Zanele Muholi: PersonaeJackie Nickerson: August and Robin Rhode: Three Films on Saturday, October 8, 2016 at 3:30 p.m. followed by an evening program with artist Zanele Muholi at 5:30 p.m. The event is free for National Underground Railroad Freedom Center members and FotoFocus Passport Holders. Passports can be purchased at

The FotoFocus ArtHub: Satellite Project Space, an interactive space for the community of Cincinnati to immerse themselves in the Biennial themes, will be located outside of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and open to the public October 5-9, 2016. It will house Wave Pool’s extension of their exhibition The Peeled Eye. Investigating the mechanisms and outcomes of contemporary surveillance, the FotoFocus ArtHub presents an installation, video work and performance that distort and reimagine materials drawn from public archives, including surveillance footage, self-generating animation, and commercial video vignettes.

"It is an exciting challenge to curate artists within an institution devoted to a larger idea of human rights. Each of these artists is deeply committed to human rights and is an activist in their own way. I believe I can speak for each of them in saying it is very satisfying to see their work shown in this context, where the issues and ideas--not just the aesthetics--really come to the fore," says Kevin Moore, FotoFocus Artistic Director and Curator.

Zanele Muholi: Personae, Jackie Nickerson: August and Robin Rhode: Three Films open at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center on October 1, 2016 and each exhibition is included in general admission.

Further information about FotoFocus can be found at, and information about the upcoming 2016 FotoFocus Biennial is available at

For more information about upcoming programming and exhibits at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, visit



The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center opened in August 2004 on the banks of the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. Since then, more than 1.3 million people have visited its permanent and changing exhibits and public programs, inspiring everyone to take courageous steps for freedom. Two million people have utilized educational resources online at, working to connect the lessons of the Underground Railroad to inform and inspire today’s global and local fight for freedom. Partnerships include Historians Against Slavery, Polaris Project, Free the Slaves, US Department of State and International Justice Mission. In 2014, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center launched a new online resource in the fight against modern slavery,

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