Zanele Muholi, So they have eyes to see
My work is a visual exploration of making/mapping/preserving radical black lesbian and queer (LGBTI : lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) visual history in post-Apartheid South Africa. I explore how visual activism can be employed by socially, culturally, politically and economically marginalized individuals to create sites of resistance as well as to develop a critical gaze from our own perspective.
This portfolio represents four different series produced over several years in various South African townships and beyond. From Beulahs and Transfigures, features Ms D’vine (2007), Martin Machapa (2007), Christina Mavuma & Tinky (2010). These two series briefly distinguish between sexual orientation and gender expression. They help express how trans bodies can claim their space and articulate their gender expression within the homo-queer as well as the heterosexist spheres that tend to exclude the T’s and I’s embedded in the LGBTI acronym.
With the Faces & Phases (2007-2012) series, I intended to show our emerging South African black lesbian aesthetics through portraiture. Positive images of us within women’s and queer archives are almost non-existent. Faces express the persons and Phases signifies the transition from one stage of sexuality or gender expression and experience to another. In Faces & Phases I feature some individuals who are affected and survived lesbophobic attacks. One of our collective painful experiences as a community is the loss of friends and acquaintances through disease and hate crimes.
Homophobia / queerphobia / transphobia / xenophobia and hate crimes have silenced and sanctioned our voices. In Isilumo Siyaluma (2006-2012) I bring attention to the epidemic of hate crimes – ‘curative rapes’ and brutal murders – that has escalated in the past few years in SA, claiming many black lesbian, gay men and trans live in the townships. In this series I drew motifs with my menstrual blood to express the anger and loss of losing friends, acquaintances, lovers and fellow activists through brutal murders.
Artist presented by John Fleetwood for the Discovery Award.
Exhibition venue: Atelier de Mécanique, Parc des Ateliers, Rencontres d’Arles 2012.