Tag Archives: South Africa

With Matsheko Acey Manik at Wits Art Museum.

Sally Gross Memorial – Wits Art Museum, Johannesburg

All Wits Art Museum Photographs by Germaine de Larch 

Sally Gross - portrait by Gabrielle Le Roux, 2013

Sally Gross – portrait by Gabrielle Le Roux, 2013

Remembering and celebrating the life of Sally Gross, our beloved friend, comrade, teacher, philosopher – a great soul who is missed by many and remembered for her role in so many struggles. Sally was a comrade in the anti-apartheid struggle, part of the ANC in exile, she was part of the Palestinian struggle and she made history writing intersex rights into South African legislation and thereby making ours the first country with a Constitution that protects intersex people’s rights……Gabrielle Le Roux

 

With Selogadi Ngwanangwato Mampane and Kezia Lewins at Wits Art Museum.
With Selogadi Ngwanangwato Mampane and Kezia Lewins at Wits Art Museum.

 

With Matsheko Acey Manik at Wits Art Museum.
With Matsheko Acey Manik at Wits Art Museum.

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Young Sally Gross
Young Sally Gross

 

 

Selogadi Ngwanangwato Mampane with portrait of Sally Gross
Selogadi Ngwanangwato Mampane with portrait of Sally Gross

 

With Carla De Bouchet
Carla De Bouchet with portrait of Sally Gross

 

Gabrielle Le Roux with portrait of Sally Gross
Gabrielle Le Roux with portrait of Sally Gross

 

Bongi covering the event in spite of not feeling well himself. Thanks Bongi.
Matsheko Acey Manik was there both as photographer representing Inkanyiso, and to mourn Sally. Here Ace’s shadow falls on the first portrait I did of Sally Gross, onto which she wrote “I am what I am” .

 

Sally Gross in the time she worked at the Regional Land Claims Commission
Sally Gross in the time she worked at the Regional Land Claims Commission

African LGBTIQ do not need a ‘get out of Africa’ escape route!

Gays in Africa Need Our Support” by Melanie Judge, calls on the South African government to produce a counter narrative to the “homosexuality is unAfrican” being peddled by religious and cultural fundamentalists across the continent.

Certain groups are creating opportunities for LGBTI people to escape Africa, but if the causes of the hate are not addressed, nothing will change, writes Melanie Judge.

The recent passing of the Anti Homosexuality Act (AHA) in Uganda and the South African government’s mealy-mouthed reaction to it demand attention.

South Africa sponsored and is leading the first ever UN resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity. South Africa also boasts a constitution that explicitly affirms equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sexuality and gender. Yet our government cannot muster the political stealth to speak against (rather than just about) homophobia when it really counts – as is the case now.

Shortly after the act’s passing, the government stated that “South Africa takes note of the recent developments regarding the situation of lesbians, gays, bisexual, transsexual and intersex persons (LGBTI) worldwide… (and) will, through existing diplomatic channels, be seeking clarification on these developments from many capitals around the world”.

What’s to clarify? This indicates a deep reluctance to name recent events in Uganda and to take a position on them.

It also implies, through the seeking of clarification, that there is some legitimate rationale for criminalisation of members of that country’s population because of their sexual or gender identity.

The SA Human Rights Commission took a bolder position and “strongly rejects the notion that the freedom to live and love without fear of violence and regardless of one’s sexual orientation is part of a rights framework from Western countries. The struggle for these and other freedoms has been at the heart of liberation struggles throughout (Africa)”.

The ANC blocked a motion in Parliament against the AHA, reflecting its ambivalence to speak out. On the contrary, the former president of Mozambique Joaquim Chissano’s open letter to African leaders is an example of the kind of leadership present persecutions demand.

The AHA and other legislation of its kind give state legitimacy to violence against people on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The AHA will prompt the forced migration of some LGBTI people.

The AHA feeds a narrative that positions citizens with non-conforming sexualities and genders as outsiders to the dominant culture of the nation. This is linked to the false notion that homosexuality is unAfrican and homophobia isn’t.

In its self-appointed leadership role on LGBTI equality internationally, the government should readily offer a counter-narrative to those who peddle prejudice in the name of “Africanness”.

Homophobia in Africa represents a set of complex and intersecting issues – deeply routed in the continent’s colonial past. Violent inscriptions of race, sexuality, ethnicity and gender took place under colonialism and are linked to present-day norms around sexuality. These historical continuities, and how sexuality is racialised, are mostly entirely absent in discussions on homophobia.

Drawing on the “savages-victims-saviours” construct of law professor Makau Mutua, the West has a keen interest in homophobia that is often framed within these sets of relations. Lurking within much of the public discourse on homophobia in Africa is the notion of the civilising mission of Eurocentric culture (and its human rights frameworks) that will save African culture, and its victims, from its barbarism and its savagery.

One example of this is a recently launched online fundraising effort initiated in the US. It is a “Rescue Fund to Help LGBT People Escape Africa” and is aimed at “Gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people persecuted and trapped in African countries that criminalise their sexuality”. The campaign states that “by contributing to this rescue fund you will help me (the initiator of the fund) to save more gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people from Africa (sic) escape terrifying persecution”.

An online counter shows the money is flowing in. If one donates to “save” an LGBTI person in Africa, one is granted a status recognition originally titled as “ultimate saviour”. There are also “prizes” for donors such as “Nelson Mandela coins” for “passport providers”.

Promoting an “escape” from Africa to “greener” US pastures, without simultaneously addressing the underlying conditions that force this migration, is dangerous and opportunistic. Dislocated from Africa-based struggles for social justice, these feel-good interventions offer no long-term solution to the systemic issues that drive homophobia. At best they are palliative and patronising, at worst they reinforce the victimhood of Africans and the saviour status of Westerners. This is part of the logic that keeps the “homosexuality is unAfrican” discourse in play.

Other more pernicious saviours are those US religious conservatives who have actively promoted homophobic ideologies across the world and are now pushing such legislation in the US. There is much to be done to challenge these religious groupings and leaders on their home soils, to expose their active undermining of sexual and gender rights.

State-sponsored homophobia serves to keep certain power relations intact. Battles over power and identity are increasingly being played out on the bodies of LGBTI people.

These battles relate to, among others: contestations around what it means to be “authentically” African; citizens’ pressuring for democracy, inclusion and leadership accountability; basic needs being met in a context of global inequality wherein rich elites govern over the poor; and women increasingly asserting their sexual rights.

In this context, South Africa’s tiptoe diplomacy on homophobia in Africa exposes the troubling underbelly of current leadership on democracy and human rights. Whilst Jon Qwelane remains ambassador to Uganda, in the face of his imminent high court appearance for homophobic hate speech, perhaps the government’s tread is more firm-footed than it might appear.

* Melanie Judge is an LGBTI activist.

Statement from the Wits University on Anti-Homosexuality Legislation in Africa

MESSAGE FROM THE OFFICE OF THE VICE-CHANCELLOR AND PRINCIPAL

DATE: MONDAY, 3 MARCH 2014

STATEMENT FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND PERTAINING TO ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY LEGISLATION IN AFRICA

The University of the Witwatersrand notes with dismay and concern recent legislation in Nigeria and Uganda that criminalises women and men who express themselves through relationships other than those defined as heterosexual. It also decries the targeted violence that has accompanied this legislation in these and other countries.

While academic debates may focus on the extent to which human sexuality is a result of nature or nurture, or whether it is inherent to Western or African culture, the reality is that diversity in terms of sexual orientation is part of the recorded history of virtually all societies.

Tolerance and acceptance of such diversity has not been easily secured, but those nations that have afforded equal rights to sexual minorities alongside a multitude of other diverse identities can justifiably claim the benefits of an equitable and just environment for their citizens who live in, and actively contribute to an inclusive and productive state.

The University of the Witwatersrand values diversity and believes that its student and staff body should reflect a multiplicity of race, gender, socio-economic background, urban and rural geographic origin, culture, ethnicity, disability, religion, national origin and sexual orientation. Indeed it believes that everyone has a role to play in furthering human development and that diversity can only enhance learning and the generation human knowledge. Such principles are the foundation of university policies and are underpinned by values enshrined within the constitution of South Africa.

It is the University’s view that recent legislation in Africa and elsewhere that seeks to criminalise sexual minorities, runs counter to these values and in addition contravenes key articles contained within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is apparent that these legislations are driven, not by a desire to address true criminality but rather are projected by an incomplete understanding of human sexuality compounded by an orchestrated campaign of hate towards vulnerable groups. South Africans understand only too well the damaging legacy that hate founded on institutionalised prejudice can deliver and that while the seeds of hate are easy to sow, they can take generations to uproot once they have spread and taken hold.

Leadership carries with it a huge responsibility, not least of which is protection of minority rights from the ebb and flow of opinion amongst the “moral majority”. The University (that counts amongst its staff and students, thinkers from across the continent of Africa), stands with other academic institutions in urging leaders to reflect carefully on what they have allowed to pass and points out that history will judge harshly those who are responsible for imprisoning others as a result of whom they love. We strongly urge that these laws be rescinded and encourage others who value the sanctity of Universal Human Rights to call for the same.

What is this protest about?

Via @muparutsazim
Via @muparutsazim – from Free Gender
02 Mar 14

President Yoweri Museveni has done it. Against widespread expectation raised by his earlier pledge, the Ugandan leader turned around this week and signed into law the contentious Anti-Homosexuality Bill passed last December by a parliament his ruling party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), controls. The bill had been opposed locally and internationally for a record four years, since its introduction to the legislature in 2009. It is a remarkable coincidence that Museveni’s executive action came in the week Pambazuka News has devoted to a special issue on the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex (LBGTI) struggles in Africa. Our decision to dedicate a special issue to this subject was informed by the alarming reality that throughout Africa, colonial era laws that criminalised ‘unnatural acts’ are now being reinforced by independent governments, pushed by powerful lobbies, under the pretext that homosexuality is ‘un-African’ and harmful: this despite the fact that the existence of LGBTI persons in Africa since time immemorial is well documented. Colonial legislators would have had no reason to criminalise homosexuality if it is the Europeans who introduced it to the continent. Beyond repression through harsh laws, there is fierce LGBTI intolerance throughout Africa. Even in countries where the constitution proclaims non-discrimination on whatever grounds, politicians, the priestly class and other self-styled moral police are undeterred in inciting their followers against gays. Homosexual persons have been attacked and killed or injured. Many have been forced into hiding, ostracised by their families, denied employment, have been unable to rent a house, etc. In South Africa the horrific phenomenon of ‘corrective rape’ before killing has been perpetrated by men against lesbians as an alleged ‘cure’ of their sexual orientation. It is impossible to remain silent in the face of this epidemic of hate and violence against innocent people.

01 Mar 14

A dangerous new imperialism is on the rise in Africa and the Caribbean. It comes wearing a rainbow flag and dressed in pink. The recent wave of anti-gay laws on the African Continent and a two month visit to Jamaica where LGBT activists and homosexuals are in a battle for self-definition have helped to crystalize this suspicion. To be clear I am a Black, gay Jamaican male who has loved and lived for over 30 years in America. I identify myself thusly so you can understand that this is not a conclusion I come to easily. It comes from observing keenly the struggle for Gay Rights in America, Africa and the Caribbean for the past 30 years.

24 Feb 14

Coming out will not be easy or even an option for everyone, but if you do decide to come out, I wish you luck! Visibility definitely matters. The truth is, I never wanted to have a conversation about who I have sex with, but because the government and the population is having that conversation, I too am forced to. The simple fact at the end of the day is: I am human. I am Nigerian. I am gay. Now my social experiment may or may not work. What I do know is that I must try. I will attempt to change minds, tackle homophobia and let Nigerians see a real life gay person: one introduction at a time.

Bisi Alimi - http://www.ynaija.com/watch-gay-rights-activist-bisi-alimi-speaks-to-amanpour-on-cnn/
Bisi Alimi – http://www.ynaija.com/watch-gay-rights-activist-bisi-alimi-speaks-to-amanpour-on-cnn/

Nigerian gay rights activist, Bisi Alimi, who had to leave the country in 2007 out of fear for his life, spoke to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on his feelings about the law and the fate of the Nigerian LGBT community.

18 Jan 14

24 Feb 14

Kill them. This sentiment has been expressed about homosexuals in Nigeria, both in the streets and in the media, especially since the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act came into operation on January 7, 2014 – again, and again. And again.

24 Feb 14

Yet Smith fails to articulate the self-determination demonstrated on the part of LGBTQI Africans as proof against an imagined Africa where all people think negatively about queer and trans people. Even in Uganda, on the very day of the passing of the anti-homosexuality bill, queer and trans Ugandans, and their allies, are asserting their disapproval through a global media campaign aptly titled, #IAmGoingNowhere, according to Hakima Abbas, co-editor (along with Sokari Ekine) of the Queer African Reader.  That there are those placing their lives on the line, today, should be ample enough proof that not all Africans are homophobic. It should also remind us to resist the urge to cast our critical gaze upon other geographical spaces before we cast it upon ourselves.

Via @HOLAAFrica
Via @HOLAAFrica
01 Mar 14

If Kenya is not Uganda or Nigeria, why are we at the brink of legislating laws that further criminalise same sex sexualities?  Kenya will soon follow Uganda and Nigeria in enacting new anti-gay laws, my crystal ball predicts. And it might be sooner than you expect. According to several media reports on radio and TV, several lobby groups, politicians and religious associations, have come out publicly to call for stricter – read, extreme – laws against homosexuality in the country. Unfortunately, 90% of Kenyans support their decision if a Pew Research on attitudes towards homosexuality in Kenya is anything to go by. In December 2013, I highlighted 10 African countries that were going the Nigeria and Uganda way in proposing, debating, enacting and assenting new laws that targeted same sex sexualities among men and women.

Via @ShailjaPatel
Via @ShailjaPatel

Follow @holaafrica @bisialimi @denisnkioka @keguro_macharia @blacklooks

Maleshwane Emely Radebe : Born 25.08.1977, Died 7.12.2013

While South Africa and the world were mourning the death of Madiba, a young lesbian was murdered in Ratanda, Johannesburg. Maleshwane Emely Radebe was murdered on the 7th December 2013 aged 32. She was stabbed  to death alongside her girlfriend who managed to escape and survived with stab wounds to her face, arm and thigh.  Maleshwane was buried on the 14th December.

She is Survived by her mother, 3 nieces and 2 children born by the nieces. She also has uncles, aunts, and many friends who loved her dearly.

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Continue on Inkanyiso….

Jaywalking the Freeway from Fear

From Center for Women’s Global Leadership by Bernedette Muthien, South Africa

In 1993, the year of the germinal UN conference in Vienna, the first President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, affirmed that all freedoms (and hence oppressions) are interdependent. This speaks critically to intersectionality, the study of the interactions of multiple systems of oppression, and its intersections with privilege. Intersectionality influenced South Africa’s groundbreaking Constitutional equality clause, which guarantees the rights of all peoples.

Vienna was a groundbreaking intersectional moment too, affirming human rights as a universal standard and emphasising the indivisible, interdependent nature of human rights, specifically in response to the historic divide between civil and political rights on the one hand, and economic, social and cultural rights on the other hand.

Intersectionality shows how categories such as gender, race, class, ability, sexuality and other forms of identity interact in myriad ways, contributing to systematic societal inequity. Classic conceptions of oppression in society, such as racism, sexism and homophobia interrelate, creating a web of subjugation.

While we are familiar with victims suffering violence, we often forget that witnesses suffer vicarious trauma, and that most perpetrators are themselves survivors of violence, including gender-based violence, that violence and discrimination often stems from insecurity and fear, rather than a lustful nature, no mirth intended.

Of less concern are the labels or issues we are still forced to deal with, like widespread gender-based violence that has not diminished over decades of feminist activisms and progressive legislation and policies. Of greater import are the approaches taken, the imperialist or colonial gaze, how we conceptualise issues, how these lenses shape/d activisms.

This includes the narrow LGBTQQI discourse, European letters completely ignorant of and sidestepping ancient same sex practices on all continents, including woman to woman marriage across Africa. Ifi Amadiume and the late Audre Lorde famously argued whether these women had romantic-sexual relations, Audre’s argument, or whether it was entirely about property relations and ensuring succession, Ifi’s contention. This ancient practice was almost entirely eradicated by colonial Christianity, yet it still persists, especially in rural areas, across East, Central and West Africa.

Of equal concern is the classification, led by the global North, of the rape of lesbians, ostensibly due to their sexuality, as a “hate crime”. This divorces so-called “curative” or “corrective” rape from its rootedness in gender-based violence and an analysis and challenge of Patriarchy, effectively deradicalising a revolutionary moment.

The presumption by feminist scholars and activists, especially those entrenched and aptly rewarded in euro-formed discourses, of the primordialism of patriarchy is another point of vexation to those of us from ancient indigenous societies that still remain matrilineal and women-centred, despite centuries of colonial and capitalist depredations. Matrilineal societies, still existing across the continents of the world, tend to be socially and gender egalitarian, with deep-rooted conflict resolution practices and hence less violent. The matriarchal Iroquois of North America’s precolonial Great Peace of the Haudenosee are said to have gifted the United States with the foundations of their Constitution. What can we learn from these nonviolent egalitarian peoples, their complex histories and ways of being? In as much as we study the League of Nations and the social welfarism of Scandinavia. Even as we smartly don the business suits, modern offspring of military uniforms, so necessary for our advocacy and scholarly endeavours, do we hear Audre Lorde’s admonishment of the complexities of employing the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house?

The silofication of our discourse and struggle speaks to a weakness of the global imagination. We need to indigenise our struggles. We need to use language that is familiar to local peoples the world over, so that tyrannical patriarchal leaders cannot say our practices are un-African or un-Russian, because they are indeed indigenous and we have been doing it since time began. With indigenous knowledge we can more effectively resist the flood of fundamentalist Christians from North America and Europe recolonizing our continents, aided by despots more interested in scapegoating marginalised communities than in addressing issues of socio-economic justice.

We need to note that violences are structural-cultural, and due to Patriarchy, women are at the centre of this war on our bodies and minds. While we focus on choice, autonomy, desire and pleasure, we need to remember that we need socio-economic-cultural rights to be truly free.

As the founder of the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa, brutally slain by Apartheid securocrats during the 1970s said in a speech in my Mother City of Cape Town: “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” And we all know Bob Marley’s song, “none but ourselves can free our minds…”

Bernedette Muthien, scholar, a poet, and an activist. She co-founded and directs Engender, an NGO which works in the intersectional areas of genders, human rights, justice and peace. Over 20 years, on all six continents, she produced 170 publications and conference presentations, some of which have been translated from English into other languages, including Dutch, Flemish, French, German, and Italian. Follow her @BerneMuthien

HIV: A silent relative

by Kopano Sibeko

“It’s amazing how the death of someone can also be a blessing” shares Thembela ‘Terra’ Dick. She walks me on a tale of how her sister, Thembi Ngubane’s memorial service was the day her life really started.
“Thembi” was an AIDS activist who was diagnosed with the Hi-virus at the age of 14, so at her memorial service I was courageous enough to speak out, because she had always motivated me to come out and be open about my sexuality and stop hiding as a “boy” she sighs .

Thembela sounds a bit skeptical I can tell by the tone of her voice, and I quiclky pick up that she doesn’t know whether to be grateful that her sister passed on or that the thought of how her life has shaped up is a bit discomforting considering how far she’s come since then. However shares with me that her speech at the service  where she officially came out about her lesbianism created an interest in Richard Mills and Jo Menel from Street Talk, a media production company that was documenting the memorial that day.

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Thembela Dick & Mpilo Cele during Paris visit in 2012

She utters that “they approached me and asked if I could be a Researcher for my sister’s story and they offered me training which also afforded me the chance to learn about the visual media.” She currently  holds a position as a researcher, a filmmaker, a director and she also does some editing. She stresses that she can’t do this on her own but she gets the support from her colleagues.

Terra tells me that she is a very persuasive person and that it is easy for people to trust her, so those are the traits that she uses to communicate with people of different cultures, age groups and races because StreetTalk is about stories in the township and putting people together, “I deal with two types of filming,  those are profiling and group discussions” she said.  Then she explains that in the meantime there are only covering the Western Cape. In the midst of our telephonic interview I also get an awakening that her voice is pretty gentle and akwardly convincing so it makes sense that people could easily warm up to her.

Though her life  might seem picture perfect  with her doing what she’s passionate about, but Terra  tells me that she didn’t complete her matric and she knows that one day that reality will catch up with her “I wanna go back to school, I need to know the basics of these technicalities”. She admits that she has to know how to talk and be knowledgable about what she does “I only see a future in film” she insists.

After a few minutes of silence, I ask her to tell me more about her family and where she comes from, “I was born in Gugulethu township, Cape Town, but I was raised in Queenstown in the Eastern Cape”. She tells me that she is a child of Buyiswa Komeni Mtshakazi and Mbambeleli Mtshakazi, who were not so actively involved in her childhood as she grew up with her siblings and that the absense of her mom in her life made her bitter “I refused to go for almost 3 months to see my mother, I was angry at her and after a while I discovered that she was HIV positive” she confesses.

I could easily sense her discomfortness resurface, though she assures me that she is comfortable and  transparent “it’s time we stopped hiding, we need to be there and support our family members who are HIV positive” she confesses.
Thembela also opens up to me about how the virus has become so much a part of her life “it has become a silent relative” she shares with me that five people in her immediate family are living with the virus and she encourages the society at large that they need to do away with the mentalty of not using a condom .

She tells me that she was lucky to have met Zanele Muholi who has been so supportive “Zanele has been great, though sometimes she doesn’t show how much she cares, but she does and she motivates me” she giggles. She also mentions that she’s an emotional person and all this can be too much for her  to handle at times.

Thembela Dick in F&P 151

Thembela Dick’s portrait in Faces & Phases series by Zanele Muholi (2011)

In the reality of it all it suddenly hits me that Terra featured in Muholi’s Faces & Phases and also in a 4 mins intimacy video. In the latter she was part-taking in unprotected sex, so I asked her if that is not hypocritical of her to preach that people should  use condoms while she is not, her response was “my girlfriend and I have been together for sometime now and we get tested almost every after three months and when we did that video we both knew each others statuses” she explains calmly.

I also voice out the fact that most people that don’t know the beauty of art will say that, that clip is not any different from pornography she says “sex is not a taboo and it’s also not porn especially if you’re doing it with you’re partner.”
She laughs gently as she explains to me that, that video was not even planned. She recalls that it was on Human Rights day in 2012 and Muholi took our intimacy photos for Being series which forms part of lesbian safer sex education. She photographed Terra and her lover Lithakazi Nomngcongo and she explains that they were standing, but later on pose on the mattress which heated the moment.

“I was very close to my girlfriend and it just happened, so I even forgot that Muholi was there” she laughs with excitement. She also adds that Muholi didn’t stop them so  they also didn’t care, because they were focused on what they were doing . However she tells me that Muholi asked if they wouldn’t mind if s/he exhibits their video” I asked my girlfriend, she said she doesn’t mind and I thought why not?”.

“I want to make the best of my life, this is a memory I’ve created” she adds while giggling. She slowly moves away from the topic and tells me that she is learning photography and that she is currently filming two documenataries called ‘Lesbian Love‘ and another one  called ‘Terra the Les’ it’s about her personal life telling the story about her family members who are HIV positive.

 

A transgender suicide

From inkanyiso by by Lerato Dumse

On the 1st of August 2013, a 17 year old self identifying transgender (youth) was one of the approximately 23 suicides reported daily in South Africa with 230 serious attempts. He hanged himself.  According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (sadag), “hanging is the most employed method of suicide.”

This was not his first attempt. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) estimates that 20-50 percent of those who succeed are not first timers. Diagnosed with having depression, he was part of the 60 percent of people with depression who commit suicide in South Africa.

His biggest angst was being born with a female body. He had expressed his need to feel comfortable with his body. Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital was to provide his life changing surgery, but they had turned him away repeatedly appointment after appointment since May 2013. With only his blood being drawn for tests, he died with the process having not started.

On Friday, 9th Aug. 2013 I attended his funeral in KwaThema township, Ekurhuleni.  While many celebrated National Woman’s Day in South Africa, a mother was burying her child.
However, unlike most LGBTI funerals which are often crowded and loud, his was small, intimate and full of tears. Described as someone who was always smiling as well making others smile, enjoyed building his muscles and lover of fashion.

Part of the Mother’s letter read was a message to the community at large.
“Let’s stay strong in the Lord and his mighty power, love our children and raise them in a way that will add value to their lives. Parents, don’t move from your places no matter the circumstances, you will wear the heavenly crown for a job well done.”

Suicide among lgbti youth, states that researchers have found that suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) youth is comparatively higher than among the general population.

The are lesbian and gay organizations in his township, however 88 kilometers separate him from an organization that deals with transgender issues Transgender and Intersex Africa.

Clinical social worker Caitlin Ryan from Family Acceptance Project (California State University, San Francisco) conducted the first of its kind study of the effects of family acceptance and rejection on health, mental health and well being of lgbt youth, including suicide, HIV and homelessness. Part of their findings was that, “parental acceptance, and even neutrality, with regard to a child’s sexual orientation can bring down the attempted suicide rate.”

Some advocates support Intervention implemented at the stage when a person is already suicidal (such as crisis hotlines). While others say Programs should be directed at increasing LGBT youth’s access to factors found to be “protective” against suicide (such as social support networks or mentors).

Attempted and Suicide have large numbers, claiming so many victims. We always hear about it, yet it is such a silent and taboo issue. As communities we have very little understanding, knowledge and education on the subject.

NB:  *Please note that the exact names of the late person are reserved for privacy but most of all to respect the family and relatives at this time of sadness.

Mo(u)rning in progress

From Inkanyiso a documentary of Mo(u)rning by Zanele Muholi

2013 July 16:  Mo(u)rning in progress

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© Zanele Muholi
2013

Where: Thokoza township, Johannesburg
What: Three (3) days after Duduzile Zozo’s burial
When: 16/07/2013
How many: 24 participants excluding taxi drivers.
Who: Mostly black lesbians and gays…
Camera used:  Canon 6D with zoom lens EF-S 85 mm lens  1:1.8

 

Butch & Menstruation is Art

From inkanyiso  photo documentary on a radical response to violence against Black lesbians by Zanele Muholi

As we continue to live and survive in troubled times as black lesbians in South Africa and within the continent, where rampant hate crimes and brutal killings of same gender loving women is rife. This ongoing project is an activist/artist’s radical response to that violence.

The passage in which we bleed
The passage where we are/ were born
The passage through which we become (wo)men?
The erotic passage meant to be aroused, is raped
The passage we love is hated and called names
The sacred passage is ever persecuted

I continue to bleed each time I read about rampant ‘curative rapes’ in my ‘democratic’ South Africa.
I bleed every time queer bodies are violated and refused citizenship due gender expression and sexual orientation within the African continent.
I constantly bleed when I hear about brutal murders of black lesbians in our townships and
surrounding areas.
I’m scarred and scared as I don’t know whose body will be next to be buried.
I bleed because our human rights are ripped.
I cry and bleed as mothers, lovers, friends, relatives lose their beloved ones,
let alone the children that become orphans because of trans/queerphobic violence.
We bleed, our life cycles invaded, we bleed against the will of our bodies and beings.

Each patterned piece in this series represents a ‘curative rape’ survivor or a victim of hate crime,
the physical and spiritual blood that is shed from our bodies.

 

2013 June 27:   Menstruation is Art

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Date:  3rd Feb. 2013
Location: Michel Bizot, Paris. FRANCE
Camera used: Nikon. COOLPIX S100
Exposure time: 1/25
Medium: Menstrual blood on A4 paper and serviette
Titled:  Each photo is time titled when the photo was captured.

These photos of my menstruation were in Feb. 2013 when I was in Paris.
It was a very cold day, snowing outside and I woke up bleeding with bad period pains. I decided to remain indoors for the whole day and visualized my menstruation.
Like I did before when I started photographing my menstrual blood.
I thought to myself how can I explain this to someone who might have different notions about being “butch” bleeding and suffering from menstrual pains. I turned the pain into a project. Later archived the pain.

Always torn (2005) by Zanele Muholi

Always torn (2005)
by Zanele Muholi

Ok. On a good day I use Always with wings.
Sometimes I use white serviette to produce better menstrual paintings with.
I go for 5 days straight with heavy flow on day 4.
I started my menstruation when I was eleven (11), which means that I’d have graduated with 4 degrees if one was praised for bleeding.
I’ve been bleeding and suffering from menstrual pains for more than 25 years. I left out some years because I just block it out of my head.

a friend said to me, "Phola ndod' uzoqina" English translation - Just Be Strong man. (2005)

a friend said to me, “Phola ndod’ uzoqina”
English translation – Just Be Strong man.
(2005)

In 1994 a gynecologist prescribed NovaSure contraceptive pills to stabilize the pains and also to help with my hormonal imbalance. Later on they got better and then I stopped taking them.
Early this year a butch friend recommended Mybulin coz she use it. It worked for 2 months and now it does not anymore.

This is project is not about that… but what it became

Read previous and see motifs exhibited at Blank projects in 2011 titled Isilumo Siyaluma (2006 – 2011)

Ummeli, 2011. Digital print on cotton rag of a digital collage of Menstrual blood stains.

Ummeli, 2011. Digital print on cotton rag of a digital collage of Menstrual blood stains.

What I said later… At the height of hate crimes and queercide in South Africa.

 

Click here to read statement

Mandela’s Queer Legacy

From the Mail & Guardian, Phumi Mtetwa discusses Nelson Mandela’s role in facilitating LGBTI rights in South Africa through encouraging dialogue. However his contribution fell short as failed upset the social and economic structures at the  core of inequality.

“Oliver Tambo thetha noBotha akhulul’ Mandela / u Mandela azobusa… [Oliver Tambo speak to Botha to release Mandela to rule!"]

Many anti-apartheid activists of my generation sang this song, along with others. I can still feel the yearning for freedom, which we believed Nelson Mandela’s ascent to the presidency would bring.

And so, on the eve of his release, we marched and danced in the streets of KwaThema; the next day we watched on big screens as he walked out of prison, raising his fist. For many of us that was the first taste of how freedom felt — and our struggles seemed closer to an end.

On April 27 1994 we voted for the ANC and for Mandela as South Africa’s first democratically elected president. In May that year, on the occasion of the opening of Parliament, Mandela said: “We must construct that people-centred society of freedom in such a manner that it guarantees the political liberties and the human rights of all our citizens.”

Encouraged by many calls to build a new South Africa, about 70 lesbian, gay and human rights organisations launched the South African National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality (NCGLE) in Johannesburg in December 1994. This new formation had the objective of guaranteeing equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation, in the country’s new Constitution and legislation. The coalition’s strategy was informed by the diversity of its constituency and in recognition of all forms of oppression. It thus campaigned for equality for all.

This significant moment in the history of gay and lesbian organising in South Africa had its roots in the anti-apartheid struggles, in which many openly gay and lesbian people were active. It was also a moment for the majority in South Africa collectively to define the nature of the way  we relate to each other as a people, informed by a past filled with exclusion, oppression, discrimination and violence.

Discriminatory conditions
The wider ANC movement, at home and abroad, had been challenged to discuss homosexuality openly and explicitly, and to adopt policies that protected lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.

The 1993 interim constitution had the equality clause, which recognised a range of discriminatory conditions and identities by means of which South Africans were excluded. Sexual orientation was one of them.

The coalition saw the significance of the ANC’s commitments to human rights, and of what Mandela implied in his presidential address in 1994: that the Bill of Rights, as endorsed by the ANC in 1990, encodes principles that “speak of a [an] … order in which, regardless of colour, gender, religion, political opinion or sexual orientation, the law will provide for the equal protection of all citizens.”

A coalition delegation (Simon Nkoli, British actor Sir Ian McKellen and myself) met President Mandela in February 1995, at the ANC’s then headquarters, to acknowledge the organisation’s commitment to equality, and to reiterate the importance of ensuring that it lived up to that commitment and presented the aspirations of many lesbian and gay people, organised as the NCGLE.

Mandela’s presidency was one of constitutional and legal reform. In 1996, when the final Constitution was adopted, we could continue to celebrate the equality clause and the Bill of Rights.

The NCGLE, until it was disbanded in 1999, then the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, and then the LGBTI Joint Working Group and their member organisations, worked on legal reforms such as the recognition of same-sex partnerships and marriage. This latter campaign was successful in 2006, when Parliament passed the Civil Union Bill. That is one instance of widely celebrated processes and results attributable to Mandela’s vision of South Africa as the “rainbow nation”.

Basis of sexual orientation
At the ANC’s 50th congress, in 1997, the party adopted a resolution opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This resolution drew on the party’s 1993 “Ready to Govern” document, which had included support for equality for LGBTI South Africans, committing the ANC to public representation of LGBTI people, and calling for ­programmes to counter anti-gay prejudice and to promote equality in the organisation.

The importance of these victories was huge. Many people came out. The oldest Pride march in Africa (Johannesburg’s) no longer included faces hooded with brown paper bags!

The legal gains helped to reverse discriminatory practices. Mandela became an important icon of the movement, in contrast to homophobic leaders such as Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Namibia’s Sam Nujoma and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni.

Mandela came from a political tradition that encouraged debate, and provided leadership of a kind seldom seen now in Africa. He lived up to his name, Dalibhunga — “convenor of the dialogue”. He courageously listened and positioned his views according to the principles he stood for, even if they were unpopular.

He knew there were threats to freedom and equality. He knew legislative changes would not eliminate social and economic oppression and exclusion. He did not, however, upset the political and economic structure at the core of inequality and, in turn, of rising homophobic and other violence, misogyny and other forms of scapegoating of the impoverished by the impoverished.

These are issues the ANC should address urgently to rectify the contradiction of advancing a sociopolitical vision such as Mandela’s without reconstructing the political-economic structure.

As a queer activist I will remember uTatu Dalibhunga for the dreams of freedom he symbolised. This, for me, offers renewed inspiration to continue to challenge neocolonialism and capitalism. I will defend South Africa’s Bill of Rights and struggle to make the government deliver on its promises. I will struggle against the hate waged against LGBTI people and nationals from other African countries who are living here. I will struggle against inequality, patriarchy, misogyny and racism. I will struggle against tribalism, nationalism and fundamentalism.

Many LGBTI people across the world celebrate Pride on the last weekend of June. In several South African cities and townships, Pride happens throughout the year! I hope that at all such events, with rainbow flags flying high, we celebrate one of the freedom movement’s greatest icons, and that we reflect and build on Mandela’s insight: “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Phumi Mtetwa is a co-founder of the NCGLE and former executive director of the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project

Continuous war on black lesbian bodies

From inkanyiso – On the 4th July 2013 the black lesbian youth of Ekurhuleni  took charge of their community as they organized an illegal march on the street of Thokoza, to protest against the ongoing trend of lesbian killings in their community. The group of about 50 black lesbians began their protest in the area where the dead body of 20 year old Nokuthula Radebe’s was found in April 2011.

“This is the place where the first lesbian was killed here in Thokoza, we are gathered here to express our animosity towards this place”, said Sister A, who is member of Ihawu, a Lesbian organisation working in Kathorus (Katlehong, Thokoza and Vosloorus) when she addressed the hyped up group.

“We are marching in honour of our fallen lesbian sisters, for the spirit of Duduzile Zozo and Nokuthula Radebe.”

Earlier in the year, Ihawu together with Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) commemorated the death of Nokuthula, and in her honour they requested the municipality to demolish the abandoned building as it is a sore point for Radebe’s family and the LGBTI community living in that area. However, their request fell on deaf ears as the building is still standing.

The march proceeded to where Duduzile Zozo’s dead body was found, a stone throw away from her home.

The group assembled outside the house where she was found and lit candles in honor of her spirit. The community came out in support of the march and memorial service. Members of the Thokoza Community Policing forum (CPF), Thokoza youth group and SANCO members.

“One death is too many”, said Kgathatso Kgosithata, member of Thokoza CPF. “As CPF we are working together with the police to make sure that the culprits are found and make sure that this doesn’t happen in our community anymore.”

Homophobic Ekurhuleni

Corrective rapes, beatings and murders are disturbingly common in conservative communities where homophobia remains deeply entrenched. Ekurhuleni has become a battleground for black lesbians.

Since the murder of Eudy Simelane in 2008, many cases of assault, rape and murder have been reported in Ekurhuleni alone.

To date five lesbians have been brutally murdered and several others assaulted and raped.

Jabu Sibisi a young lesbian from Thokoza said, “I fear for my life, I feel like I am the next victim, I can never be free again after this.”

 “I am traumatized and angry, this is my second friend to be murdered, whatever that is happening in my community pains me, but it won’t stop me from being who I am. I am a proud lesbian and no one can change me”, said Fikile Mazibuko another lesbian from Thokoza.

The concerns echoed by the two young lesbians are the sentiments of many other lesbians from Ekurhuleni who came out in numbers to affirm the existence.

Tumi Mkhuma, a lesbian friend of the deceased and a  corrective rape survivor, expressed her outraged about her friend’s death. “I feel sad for my friend, the fact that she didn’t survive this pains me. As a rape survivor myself, I know what she went through and it is not a good place to be.”

In 2009, Mkhuma was dragged from a bar, beaten unconscious, and then raped in Katlehong. Luckily she survived but many did not.

Most of the cases have striking similarities in term of the manner they are carried out. All of the victims are reported as being last seen in a tavern leaving with male friends. It is also speculated that these murders are orchestrated by people who know the victims very well.

Mkhuma said she knows her rapist and where they live, and with Zozo’s case it is alleged that his male friends that she was last seen with having something to do with her murder.

However, one concerned mother and a representative form SANCO who lives nearby Zozo’s home blames the horrendous killing on alcohol and drugs.

Mam’ Puleng, chairperson of SANCO said, “these murders are stirred by drugs, Nyaope is the cause of this, our children have turned into monsters, their brains are dead because of nyaope.”

“These drugs are very dangerous and shouldn’t be taken lightly”, she said.

Lesbian murders in June

June is celebrated as the youth month in South Africa, a month where the brave youth of 1976 are remembered and celebrated. However, for the LGBTI community, June has become a month that members of this colorful, flamboyant communities are murdered for being open about their sexuality.

In 2012 June, three black lesbians, and a gay man under the age of 30 were brutally murdered in different places in South Africa.
Phumeza Nkolonzi, (22) was shot three times in front of her mother and niece in Nyanga on the 24 June 2012. It was reported that, “The gunman broke down the door and started firing at Nkolonzi without saying a word, leaving her family traumatised and confused.

Hendrietta Thapelo Morifi, (29) lived as an out lesbian in the village of Phola Park, Mokopane. She was killed on 29 June 2012 in her home with a braai fork inserted into her throat.

Sanna Supa, (28) was shot and killed while opening the gate to her house in Braam Fischer, Soweto on the 30 June 2012.

Thapelo Makutle, (24) on the 9 June 2012 was killed and mutilated in Seoding near Kuruman. His throat had been slit to the point of a virtual beheading, and part of his testicles and penis had allegedly been cut off and stuffed into his mouth.

The murders mentioned are just a fraction of the daunting statistics of LGBTI murders that happen almost every day across South Africa, a country known for embracing the gay rights.

Government breaking the silence

The government has come out in support of Zozo’s case, with Premier Nomvula Mokonyane condemning the murder and also calling on the South African citizens to be more tolerant.

Also, it seems like the case of Zozo has compelled the National Task Team into acting. The team had received a lot of criticism for their silence and lack of progress since its inception in May 2011.

“On Wednesday, senior officials from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ & CD) were sent to Thokoza to meet with local police to establish the progress made in the investigation”, reported Mambaonline.

“The officials were accompanied by members of civil society groups, including FEW, who form part of the task team mandated to develop an urgent intervention to combat crimes against LGBTI people.”

A task team was also established at the Thokoza police station, comprising of police officer, community policing forum members as well as members from the community to try and speed up the case as well as to review the case of Radebe which remains unsolved.

The murder of Zozo happened just a week after the President of United States (US), Barack Obama visited some countries in the African continent, especially South Africa.

Obama had received a lot of pressures from human rights organisations, urging him to address the state of homosexuality which is criminalised in 38 countries in Africa.

Obama was met with some negative responses when he tried addressing the issue in his visit to Senegal, one of the African countries that criminalises homosexuality.

Nonetheless, as the LGBTI community in South Africa, we wonder what difference would it had made if Obama and Jacob Zuma discussed the hate crime situation towards homosexuals in South Africa when they met.

Would it have made a difference in the lives of gay people?
Or maybe shifted the mind sets of traditionalist and homophobes who believe that being gay is wrong, un-African and it should and can be fixed.

 

Another brutal murder of a lesbian

From inkanyiso – Another young black lesbian murdered. Duduzile Zozo, a 26 year old from Thokoza, East of Johannesburg was murdered on 30th June, 2013.

Daily Sun, a local tabloid newspaper reported that, “The 26-year-old’s half-naked body was found in her kasi in Thokoza, Ekurhuleni yesterday morning (30 June 2013).”

The newspaper further stated that, “a toilet brush was rammed into the deceased vagina.”

Captain Godfrey Maditsi who was also interviewed by the paper, confirmed the news and told daily sun that “A murder case has been opened and we ask the community to come forward with any information that could help put those responsible behind bars.”

However, Maditsi said that, “the cops couldn’t confirm whether Duduzile Zozo was raped or not. They could only confirm that a toilet brush was rammed into her vagina as they found it still inside.”

Her mother, Thuziwe Zozo, told the paper that she suspected that her daughter was killed because of her sexuality: “She was a lesbian but never had any problems before. People loved and appreciated her.”

The case of Duduzile Zozo, like many other lesbian cases caught the attention of the media, as most of local and international media ran with the story.

Since reports of the gruesome murder made headlines locally and internationally, we have since seen political parties and other civil society organisations releasing statements condemning the brutal murder of the young lesbian.

COSATU’s Patrick Craven said in a statement, “COSATU is outraged at the continuing high level of violence against women and girls, and demands that no effort be spared to arrest whoever was responsible for this despicable murder, and that the courts impose an exemplary sentence.”

The Democratic Alliance Shadow Deputy Minister of Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities (DWYCPD), Helen Lamoela also released a statement expressing The DA’s is shock and sadness by reports of the brutal rape and murder of Duduzile Zozo.

DA stated that, “Government is not doing nearly enough to eradicate the scourge of violence against women and children in South Africa.”

The DA went further on to criticize the progress of the National Council Against Gender-Based Violence based within the DWYCPD formed over six months ago and the silence of the LGBTI National Task Team which was formed two years ago by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.

Helen Lamoela said, “DA will submit parliamentary questions to the Department of Justice to query the progress of this task team. We will also request that the National Council Against Gender-Based Violence be summoned to Parliament to present progress made on its plans and programmes to curb violence against women and children in South Africa.”

The murder of Duduzile happens just a week after Amnesty International released a report called ‘Making Love a Crime: Criminalisation of Same-sex conduct in Sub Saharan Africa’.

The report highlighting violence, homophobia and laws targeting LGBTI people in Sub Saharan Africa, with particular focus on Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon and South Africa.

Amnesty International reported on the plight of black lesbians in South Africa.

The report stated that, “Taunts, insults and threats are a constant reality and are in fact so common that many LGBTI people do not even recognize them as a form of violence. Sexual assault and other physical attacks against LGBTI people are also all too common. Lesbians, and LGBTI people who do not conform to culturally approved models of femininity and masculinity live in fear of being assaulted, raped and murdered by men”.

Amnesty International over the past few months have partnered with Ekhuruleni Pride Organising Committee (EPOC) an LGBTI organization based in Ekhuruleni, a township which now known to the lesbian community as a hot spot for lesbian rape and murder.

Both organisations have been working together in making sure that the case of Noxolo Nogwaza, a 24 year old lesbian activist who was brutally murdered in Kwa-Thema two years ago, is investigated and perpetrators brought to book.

According to Bontle Khalo of EPOC, “Amnesty International has been campaigning to ensure that Noxolo’s murder is investigated thoroughly and effectively, so that those found to be responsible may be brought to justice.”

Furthermore, Amnesty International has been running a campaign locally and internationally calling for Justice for Noxolo. These campaigns have been running since May 2012, and they have targeted local and provincial police authorities, as well as the Gauteng Premier.

In recent developments of the campaign, Amnesty International has been lobbying for legislation to combat hate crime, legislations that would compel the police to compile statistics of lesbian and gay murders and rapes.

“Hate-crime laws would improve the policing and judicial response to such crimes and help develop effective mechanisms to monitor such crimes”, stated the report.

The case of Noxolo Magwaza that Amnesty International is working on is one of many murder cases that have been under-investigated in Ekhuruleni.

There’s the case of Girly Nkosi who was murdered in 2009, Nokuthula Radebe murdered in 2011, and Patricia Mashigo murdered 2013 and many others which were not reported or are unknown to me.

The aforementioned cases, represent only those murdered in Ekhuruleni alone, South Africa has many more neglected cases of LGBTI people who were murdered for being homosexuals.

The fraction of statistic mentioned shows how little the police authorities are working on making sure that the cases are diligently investigated and perpetrators arrested.

It took the South African Justice System six years and 30 court appearances, for 19 year old Zoliswa Nkonyana’s 2006 murder case to be concluded and her killers sentenced.

The brutal killing of vulnerable LGBTI individuals is extreme, merely releasing a statement condemning the act is not enough; the LGBTI community needs actions, Interventions, and legislations to be put in place in order to combat these barbaric acts.

There is an urgent need for educational programmes and awareness campaigns to address the attitudes and biases that lead to these hateful crimes.

South African townships are no longer safe for lesbians, every day a black lesbian wonders if they are NEXT?.

What has underwear got to do with her job performance-a woman ‘raped’.

What began as a protest to remove the minister of education due to lack of performance and delivery has turned vile and completely out of order. Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has been under fire for several months with issues ranging from the textbook issues in Limpopo, lack of teachers and resources, and teachers’ salary increases. Her failure to deliver on the issues is rightfully a cause for concern for scholars, teachers and pupils. Her performance thus is bad and the call to have her removed a decision that the department must make. Then again ‘undressing’ her in public is another issue of sexist, violating and demeaning behaviour to many women like Motshekga.  

Whilst we can freely protest as citizens for what we feel is rightfully being denied to us, we also need to be wary of what messages we send when we regress in the manner the trade union has. The call for peaceful demonstrations has been heard over the last weeks and the people marching, striking teachers and protests students were well in order for it is their right to call for change. Though once it became personal, shifting her performance to attribution of undergarments the paradigm changed drastically.  The service delivery and salary increase protest turned into violation of rights and dignity.  Male and female protests held the supposed underwear in the streets, a day after she had been depicted as a donkey in the same paper, the Star. I read the story with shock and not understanding the relevance of showing this under wear.

I do not understand what relevance this has to delivering services. I know that it threatening, demeaning, disrespectful and degrading women’s bodies that this clothing item is shown in public. None of the failing male ministers have had their under pants shown in public in protest to their inefficiency. Why does it seem so normal to do this to women? In a South Africa on its knees calling for end to violence on women’s bodies, this is a blow to women and girls who are represented in this manner as just a panty.

Motshekga is not only a woman- she is a mother, a sister, an aunt and grandmother to someone. Her rights have been violated and those in protesting in this disgraceful manner are brought to book. What happens to her freedom and all our freedoms as women when the work we undertake is attributed to underwear? We are just a few hours from freedom day celebration in South Africa, and yet South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) chooses to declare oppression of this kind to women. It is shamefully disgusting that what I had actually thought was a civil and principled protest as come to end on personal attacks of women. The fact that trade unions played as great role in the struggle from the oppressors are the ones using the same tactic to undermine women in every way is disgraceful.

I am saddened by this development and wary that we are fighting a different struggle as women were when we fail we are reduced to a piece of underwear and depicted as useless. By virtue of showing this underwear it shows the struggle women still have in the work place to tackle discrimination and bias. It is evident that the sexist and rape culture in this country reigns in areas unimagined. Attributing to having taken the Minister’s underwear implies anyone could have done it without her consent and implying she is being punished for being bad and not delivering by rape. Why else would one display one’s underwear, other than it being a token for having done harm to someone?! This is sheer lack of better judgement on the people protesting and teachers we rely on to teach our children.  They have failed. Whilst we hoped that we would progress to getting out teachers being the ones to teach the leaders of tomorrow. It is really concerning and I feel that the teachers as much as they have as good intentions have revealed a bad side that any parent must be wary of as to what they teach children in these schools. Perhaps some of the teachers are not deserving of the salaries they demand after all with this kind of outright violation of rights and human dignity.  There is no smoke without a fire…

 

South Africa: Two years have past yet still no justice for Noxolo Nogwaza

From Inkanyiso – Two years have past yet still no justice for Noxolo Nogwaza who was raped and murdered in  KwaThema, Gauteng on the 24th April 2011..

Ekurhuleni Pride Organizing Committee (EPOC) together with Amnesty International hosted a commemoration service on Wednesday, 24th April 2013. The day coincided with the period when she was killed in 2011.  Inkanyiso documented the whole funeral of Nogwaza in 2011 and continued to do so even at the commemoration on Wednesday.

lindiwe _ noxolo's daughter in front of canvas_0073
A little girl in front of the banner is Lindiwe, the late Noxolo Nogwaza’s daughter.
She was only 4 years old when her lesbian mother was brutally murdered in 2011.
Photo by Nqobile Zungu (24.04.2013)

The 24 year old lesbian’s body was found in a ditch in Tsakane, East of Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni. Her face crushed with bricks, it was also alleged that her pants were pulled down and she was raped in what is described as a hate crime.

photos taken during Noxolo's commemoration in Tsakane, Ekurhuleni. Johannesburg. (c) Inkanyiso media

photos taken during Noxolo’s commemoration in Tsakane, Ekurhuleni. Johannesburg.
(c) Inkanyiso media

bashin looking at da crowd_9657

Wednesday’s event was a far cry from the attention and support that Noxolo’s story generated from the media and politicians.
Mayor Mondli Gungubele and Premier Nomvula Mokonyane attended separate memorial services in 2011 and made promises not yet fulfilled.
The local Ward councilor known as Ivy also couldn’t come on Wednesday and sent a representative. The Police have never bothered to attend any of the events, even when they were on the programmes as main speakers.

Speaking for EPOC, Media and communication officer Bontle Khalo says they have been to the police station on numerous times. “We have never received positive feedback from police, trying to inquire over the phone is an even bigger nightmare.
We handed over a memorandum to the safety MEC at the Kwa-Thema police station in 2011, there has been no response since” says Khalo. Her experience is no different from that of Dikeledi Sibanda, from the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) who is working on Nokuthula Radebe’s case. In March 2011, Nokuthula, a 20 year old lesbian was killed in a neighboring township (Thokoza) less than a month before Noxolo Nogwaza in 2011.
The sentiments of loss and continuous grief were shared by both families.
They tried to do follow ups hoping for some justice to be done. The memorial was hosted next to where Noxolo’s body was found.

Luyanda Mthembu who attended previous commemoration said it’s sad to see no changes had been done. “The politicians promised to clean this area, erect a tombstone but now they have all disappeared”, concludes Mthembu.
Most of the people I spoke to remember the promise of a tombstone, and nothing about working towards apprehending the culprits.

Balloons and messages of solidarity were written on Wednesday. Khalo admits that as an organization more radical action is needed from EPOC not forgetting organisations who are working on LGBT and human rights issues.

evidence of solidarity

evidence of solidarity

Messages of support written on a hard painted wood

Messages of support written on a hard painted wood

One cannot forget the incident of another lesbian former Banyana Banyana player Eudy Simelane, was killed on the same weekend as Noxolo Nogwaza on the 27th April 2008.
The two murders happened about 5km from each other, under similar circumstances. Asked about the support or assistance given to Nogwaza’s family. Bontle talks about lawyers, who have agreed to work pro bono and the lawyer’s success in preventing the case from being an informal to formal inquest.

As South Africans prepare to celebrate 19 Years of Independence since 1994Freedom Day on Saturday the 27th April 2013.
The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex (LGBTI) community of Ekurhuleni and allies, is preparing to bury yet another lesbian.
Patricia Mashigo (28 Feb. 1977  to 21 April 2013).
She was callously body murdered in Daveyton, Johannesburg on the 21st April 2013.

This latest incident again raises the question of freedom, and when will the LGBTI community see and enjoy this freedom.

“The truth is, ‘Ngiyesaba’ – I’m shit scared” – Rape and Traumatic Recall

TRIGGER WARNING……

Homophobic Injustice and Corrective Rape in Post-Apartheid South Africaby Kylie Thomas – a joint report by the University of Western Cape and the Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.

The report offers a critique of the terms ‘corrective rape’ and ‘curative rape’ and examines the concept of ‘hate crimes’ which is increasingly being used to describe a specific form of violence directed at LGBTI people in South Africa.

This form of violation is perpetrated with the explicit intention of ‘curing’ the lesbian of her
love for other women. Although many heterosexual survivors of rape attest to the stated intentions of their assailants as punitive (they have done something wrong, and thus ‘deserve’ rape), survivors of ‘curative rape’ make it clear that their attackers were interested in humiliating and punishing them for their choice of sexual identity and lifestyle and in ‘transforming’ them — by coercion — into heterosexual women. (2010:26)

Section one “Rape: Corrective, curative, hate crime” provides background into rape as a form of punishment and the naming of a specific kind of rape of lesbians as ‘curative rape and corrective rape’ and the push towards adopting the concept of ‘hate crimes’. Section two “Traumatic Recall” Rape and recovery” is drawn from an interview with ‘Sibongile‘, a woman who was raped by a man who lived close to her home. Her story is complicated because not only did she know the rapist but he was someone she considered a friend. Sibongile’s experience of rape and the social setting in which the rape took place, his constant presence and continued threat of violence from him as well as the failure of the justice system, are evidence of the ever present violence through which she and many other lesbians are forced to live.

The crimes committed against Sibongile, like that of Thapelo Makhutle, murdered in Kuraman in June 2012, and other survivors and victims of homophobic and transphobic crimes, are ‘communal crimes’. Arbitrary notions on citizenship and who is fully human or deserves to be seen as human, are demonstrated through the repeated failures in the criminal justice system as well as failures of community which speak to a dangerous judicial and communal complicity in crimes of hate.

It seems to me that these murders have their own particular meaning in relation to other crimes in that they are communal crimes — in most cases the murderers and rapists are known to the victims and survivors and possibly others in the neighbourhood. This is an important point when thinking about how to speak of these things. In order to kill so intimately surely one must find a way to disconnect. One possible way to do this is to disassociate yourself with the victim, to render them as other — we know enough about killing to know it ‘s always easier to kill ‘them’ rather than kill ‘ourselves’. If this is the case, then there are neighbourhoods of people who are disconnected from each other. Places where people look at others but do not see themselves…….

The full report can be read here.

Rape: Corrective, curative, hate crime

There are no precise figures for the number of women who have been raped because they identify themselves as lesbians. Rape, like other forms of sexual violence, is perhaps the most under‐reported form of crime. There are clearer figures for the number of women who have been raped and murdered because their attackers sought to punish them for being openly lesbian.3 What is clear, however, is that lesbians in South Africa, and black lesbians in particular, experience public space as a space of violence.

Since the release of Harris’ report, the term ‘hate crime’ has been increasingly used to describe forms of violence directed against gay, lesbian, bi‐sexual and trans‐gendered South Africans. The terms ‘curative rape’ and ‘corrective rape’ have also been used to describe sexual violence directed against lesbians and to mark the distinction between rape experienced by homosexual women and the rape of heterosexual women or men or the rape of children. In their study, The country we want to live in: Hate crimes and homophobia in the lives of black lesbian South Africans, Nonhlanhla Mkhize, Jane Bennett, Vasu Reddy and Relebohile Moletsane draw attention to how these terms began to circulate as a result of the activism of “radical feminist and
black lesbian‐led organisations”. These activists “attested to a very specific form of sexual attack “curative rape’” (2010:26). Drawing on the work of scholars and activists Zanele Muholi, Helen Moffett and Vasu Reddy, the authors write,

This form of violation is perpetrated with the explicit intention of ‘curing’ the lesbian of her love for other women. Although many heterosexual survivors of rape attest to the stated intentions of their assailants as punitive (they have done something wrong, and thus ‘deserve’ rape), survivors of ‘curative rape’ make it clear that their attackers were interested in humiliating and punishing them for their choice of sexual identity and lifestyle and in ‘transforming’ them — by coercion — into heterosexual women. (2010:26)

South Africa has extremely high rates of sexual violence, and rape has been used in the country as a way to “punish” women who do not conform to normative ideals of femininity in different ways over time.5 In her study on what she terms ‘group rape’ in South Africa, Katherine Wood cites Steve Mokwena’s Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) paper on ‘jackrolling’, a practice defined as “a form of group abduction and rape of young women in Soweto in the eighties originally associated with a gang called The Jackrollers”, which “was designed to put out‐of‐reach or snobbish women in their place” (2005:306). In the post‐apartheid present, lesbian women have been made subject to what has been termed ‘corrective rape’ or ‘curative rape’, which, like jackrolling, can be understood as a violent form of policing of the social order. In an article about hate crimes, activist Wendy Isaack defines ‘curative rape’ as “a term used to describe the sexual violence perpetrated for the purpose of supposedly ‘curing’ a person of their real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity” (2007:2).

Such forms of naming provide useful short‐hand terms for forms of violence, and sexual violence in particular, directed against lesbians in South Africa. But the terms also carry with them a series of assumptions that may not hold in all cases. The use of the terms by feminist scholars can work inadvertently to reinforce essentialist conceptions of gender and sexuality. Perhaps the clearest way to understand what is at stake in the ways in which we name forms of violence would be to defamiliarise the terms used to describe violence directed towards lesbians through applying the descriptor ‘corrective’ or ‘curative’ to a different category of hate crime — racism. A racist ‘curative beating’ or ‘corrective racially motivated shooting’ makes no sense precisely because of the widely held view that a person’s race cannot be altered — it is taken as a given. A similar, and similarly mistaken, biologism is at work in the notion of ‘corrective rape’, which ‘makes sense’ because of widely held ideas about essential womanhood and femininity. By this logic, a black or white person cannot be ‘cured’ of being black or white because blackness or whiteness is taken to be a biological given and a lesbian can be ‘cured’ of being lesbian because her underlying essential femininity is taken to be a biological given. ‘Curative’ racially motivated violence would be genocide or the Nazi ‘final solution’, just as the inner logic of ‘curative rape’ of lesbian women contains the desire not for some form of social restoration but for elimination. In other words, if the ‘corrective rape of lesbians is intended to ‘turn’ them into heterosexual women, it is intended to negate, symbolically and often physically, what constitutes their identities and their being.

The term ‘corrective rape’ also implies that if lesbians performed their sexuality ‘correctly’, within the appropriate bounds defined by patriarchy, they would not be subject to sexual violence. This, as the argument made by Mkhize et al. about the way in which black lesbians are ‘doubly vulnerable to gender‐based violence’ makes clear, is not the case:

As women, they [black lesbians] inhabit a South African reality in which all women are vulnerable to diverse forms of sexual attack, and black women who are poor are surrounded by more opportunities for men to attack them than women who are better resourced (and thus, often, white). As lesbians in homophobic contexts and cultures in which sexual violence is a popular weapon, they are at the knife‐edge of community rejection and vulnerable to local ‘policing’ through physical and sexual assault. (2010:26)

Hate crimes against lesbians have also been read as ‘message crimes’ and as corrective not of the individual but of the social order. While men who rape lesbians in South Africa may intend to convey a message through the act of rape, this is not necessarily directed as a ‘warning’ to other lesbian women. The message may be to other men, asserting patriarchal power over women and affirming aggressive masculinity. Interpreting hate crimes against lesbians as ‘message crimes’ requires a careful interrogation of motive, intent and effect without which we may think we understand more than we do about histories and forms of violence post‐apartheid. Reading the ‘messages’ conveyed by violence too literally may mean that we fail to analyse what appears self evident and unchanging but is in fact complex and contingent. Focusing on the ‘message’ may also divert attention from an analysis of the conditions under which the transmission of violent messages is made possible.

In a section of her report on hate crimes in South Africa headed “Hate crimes are ‘message crimes’”, Harris draws on the definition of hate crimes provided by the American Psychological Association to argue that

hate crimes impact not only on the individual victim, but on the whole ‘hated group’. … They are different from other crimes in that the offender is sending a message to members of a certain group that they are unwelcome in a particular neighbourhood, community, school or workplace. (2004:22).

Reading hate crimes as messages works on Reading hate crimes as messages works on the assumption that the person/people to whom the message is directed does not already know and understand the message. Hate crimes, in this frame, work to remind those who have transgressed social norms of their place. The effect of this is to render hate crimes into exceptional events. In the context of South Africa, these forms of sexual violence operate less as message and more as normative practice. These acts do not take place in a wider social and political context of safety, tolerance and freedom, in which rape occasionally occurs as a form of punishment. These conditions necessitate a more careful reading of the ‘message’ of what has been termed ‘curative rape’. Why would such violent messages be necessary in a context where the unequal relations of power between men and women are perfectly and painfully clear?

I do not dispute the need to describe and define the ways in which South African lesbians are subject to particular, and sometimes intensified, forms of violence. However, given the prevalence of extremely conservative ideas about gender and sexuality in the country, I would argue that the terms ‘corrective’ and ‘curative’ rape should always be carefully qualified, if they are to be used at all.6 .. Continue reading

A Mother’s Story

Ricki Kgositau interviews Diana, a mother on coming to terms with her transgender son

A Mother’s Story* – “I started opening up to him and my child becoming relaxed no longer afraid of me, just like the old times. He always reminds me of the day I walked up to him and asked if he wanted a gender reassignment as I knew good Doctors who can help out. He says that question just swept him off his feet…”



Via Gender Dynamix

Another Soul Lost

 

art performance — Decomposing Bitterness by Mpumi Rakabe

I received your news, but

I did not cry!
Am coming

But not today

When we see you, I won’t cry

I’ll remember you like your mothers footsteps

Home is far

Heaven is closer

Rejoice for my sake, peaceful my heart

To convey

To last

To write waste, my eyes look at your bitterly basic elements of instruments

When I underline the long raod ahead of us

We born same date

You live

I suffer

Enjoy your fruitful everlasting

Peaceful life


by Nompumelelo (Dikela; NoNi; Ntswayibane) Mamqwathi
(c) 2013

_________________
About the author

My Name is Nompumelelo (Dikela; NoNi; Ntswayibane) Mamqwathi.

I formed Rakabe Founder of Black Soul of Art Creations and Curator of Women’s Journey Annual Exhibition.
The exhibition is about women and their art, embracing womanhood in art. The intention for the initiative is to document the art movements of today’s contemporary modern styles and techniques. Our main focus group is female — lesbian artists.

The previous exhibition spoke to contemporary academic history of women artists in South Africa, and promoted a learning curve, which hopefully led to new female master artists, and new value and admiration for art by women.
Brief about my life, I never knew my parents and I have one brother (Tshepiso) and one adopted sister (Christie van Zyl), but am stronger than normality. Look out for my biography /documentary-Life Without A Fullstop.

Currently, I am studying visual art- Art History at UNISA, taking photography as a healing process, video art and writing.  I’m documenting artists and their movements. To expose and also showcase the challenges, successes faced by artists with the role of ‘the arts’ in our society today.
My research is about Women who are killed and their bodies are being decomposed bitterly (Human Traffic). I use my body as a subject matter. In the images attached I dig my own grave, and died for all women that are killed-to be killed. The project is ongoing series/ work in progress. There will be an additional short video to back up the project.

In a resisting piece I wrote about Decomposing Bitterness

Hope my work conveys the bitterness within sharp tools men use to kill, hurt, destroy and rip souls!

Am A Slave of Artsholes

 

 

 

 

Gloom Glamour Graves

When we lay for the last time to rest the whole event is filled and felt with many emotions and for the one being sent away only silence prevails. Yet so much more happens in these spaces that are sometimes filled with much solemn, sullenness, unspoken resistance and weaknesses. The gloom that fills the home, neighborhood where the deceased lived is one of the many places of performance and purging. Marches of anger are followed by glamorous presence, one might mistake for a celebrity do. Red dust flies as groups of people from all walks of life make their appearance for the dead, and then it starts all over again.

Many years ago when I was growing up as I still am, I knew of people a few at the time who had gone missing and the neighborhood would look at every crack to find the missing person. Police were most helpful and people did not wait for an announcement on the radio or in the media to go help with the find. It was at will and neighborhoods were so much better and the joy when the lost was found- was just immeasurable.
Today, queercide as coined by Muholi, in South Africa make for one fear for the worst. It is rare that women escape death, and no longer is it that we help each other to find the missing person. The cries for help by the young women killed on a monthly basis. What is heartbreaking I the anticipation of a body being found and it being that of the missing woman. In fact, worst of all is that the perpetrator is a neighbor or from the hood. Known as a friend, a member of the hood, and a brother or son to many. Unfortunately this has become a common sight and with the event so sullen, comes much of the glamour.

What I have come to witness is a dynamics of such events- and celebrations of a life lived, sojourn and then lost. Once the death is publicized there is not a moment that goes without steps taken step by step to air out the anger, plan for the funeral, another march in the community and the last word of prayer. This can be seen unfolding on platforms such as Facebook, and through emails and media briefs. People gather quickly, the few known to the deceased and the masses of people who come from all walks of life.  A pitched tent usually is the marked point of the fallen one. The presence of people at funerals is larger than life for a brief moment.  Days before- a few people can be seen coming to pay their respects and consoling the family; mother, father (if he is there), sisters, brother, children of the deceased who on many occasions have no idea what has transpired. People come in and out of the home and the family sits quietly in a corner covered in blankets and dark clothing-in mourning. Muholi’s Mo(u)rning room at the Stevenson gallery depicts a clear picture of somber, helplessness and need to turn back the time for a life lost so young.

What follows this quiet time to mourn is the body viewing and rituals and solemn activities-that mirror activist performances in many funerals. Masses of people easily mistaken for a fashion show, seating next to stranger and friends-the chair under the tent fill up fast. The rest of the masses dressed to the T-gather outside the tent and on a sunny day, umbrellas will bring brightness to the already glamourized presence by masses of mourners.  One after the other speakers relate of the life of an activist (which has become a relative term) fallen in her tracks. As the masses of people known to the deceased listen, nod their heads in agreements and disapproving of the killing, anger seethes at every mention of the deceased. The masses listen attentively, silence is all but for the preachers, priestesses, reverends who will give a life’s ceremony. Sermons on the word of God bring a sense of confusion to my mind and I will relate this momentarily. Screaming to a screeching sound prayers and the word what can be heard follows, “…of how God loved the world…, …emphasis of us all being made in God’s image,  that we are all the same…, …we are all God’s children…, … and it is the heavens that have chosen for this angel to come home,” The silence is broken with melodious roars of singing. Songs are heard and the melodies are o well coordinated and just bring our heart to pieces- what a performance.

With much of the singing as the body is taken to its final laying place, a hearse leading and in tour I the entourage that gives a lasting performance. The final sending is well prepared and coordinated, it leaves one stunned; the suede shoe, the two —three piece suits, sunglasses galore, hats so elegant one might imagine a derby. The high and low heels, the pants and the skirt, the pleats and the frills, and the whites, black and blocked color effect, all make for a sight of glamour. The funeral procession also has a few cars accompanying the hearse — small cars, which carries close relatives-a deals with burial franchise. Some get buses and in recent times I have seen a muscled up Hammer (American oversized military replica vehicle) that is out of this world.

Red dust flies in the air, a tent pitched at the burial site and ushers showing the way help along- as most days- the graveyard is ever busy. Burial time is limited to just an hour to allow for the next grave shift to go on. Cries, screams, hugs and emotions fill the red skies. A final goodbye and in time some forget to step delicately on the ground to keep the suede clean and in the original condition. Some fall to the ground in shock, realism and fear that a life is finally gone.

The burial party takes the tent down and the chairs. The speaker makes the last prayer, dust to dust as people throw soil into the ground to reunite the body from its beginnings. That is the end and the curtain closes. Masses disperse, friends and family return, lunch is had at the house and the many younger people take their next journey and before that they get together for after-tears.

All in this in mind, what rings in my mind is how this is a cycle with little benefit- hear me! I am glad that there are people who care for lesbians and women who are killed and I am also grateful that they get a dignified send off. Who is there and why- it does not matter right now- in the future I will address this. A funeral of a fellow human being can only be filled with people who come to show support, share in the grieving and give strength to the families.  What I want to understand is the elaborate and seemingly extravagant event that just ends and begins when another lesbian is killed.

The preachers whom I have seen most of them men- crying to God as they speak of the evil that has taken place and the whole bible scripture quoting-I wonder what happens after they depart and go back to their homes and wait for the next invite to bless the dead. I also wonder what they preach in their churches- how and if when they tell their congregation that hating, judging and killing are not a way of the church and that they need to work with us to stop homophobia and understand non-heterosexual. After all we are all made in God’s image right! So how do we stand for people who kill God’s image- found in many diverse sexualities.

What happened to the children and the family who has lost a child, sister, daughter, auntie, mother and lover? I man ye to understand how we make sure that the families not only see our presence in our glamour but with critical conscience to the livelihood for those left behind. Invitation to witness or talk to people about a death in the family through hate crimes- I can only imagine-it is very raw, hard and difficult. So bringing a mother, sister, partner to speak to a crowd about healing or evokes emotions- some feel that they can heal better and of those who don’t- with grandchildren asking for their mother- what do we do?

Away from the gayness as in happiness of our lives can we also take stock of how we present ourselves- to each other dead or alive.  Do we just come for the gays of our lives to mourn and what follows is divorced from us? I am sad to hear that “was“ can go to another funeral and be counted. At the same time as long as we are safe how can we have another graduation, wedding or baby blessing party?
Funerals are no longer as gloom as I can remember- we can celebrate lives and then again if it is true of heavens to cut short (which I do not believe) lives of young lesbian women in South Africa- then at least make sure you feed, clothe, care, reassure and comfort them through these hard and undeservingly hurtful emotions.

About the author
Glenda is a Researcher/Writer/Scholar whose focus is on Gender and Sexuality in Africa.

Remembering Busi

Busi died on the 12th March 2007.  One of the few poems she published on her blog “My Realities”  was “Remember Me When I Am Gone” – This year I forgot the day but not Busi.  I think of her often as she was.

 

In November 2006 she wrote “No one can take it away from me”

The beautiful soul that i am
The creative genius that i am
The artist i was born to be
The good writer that i doubted
The storyteller and the original educator
Born to change the world, yes, i was
Born to relate my own happenings and mishaps
Given by GOD Almighty Himself
Its’s true i say “no one can take that awy from me”
The reviver of dead minds
The bearer of good news
The true master mind but, not a proud one.because
I only live to make myself and my GOD proud.
As for the people who are gossiping,muttering words and calling me names behind my back
Fuck them I say!
I was born like this
I was born to tell my tales
I give love to the people, my people
Black women of the continent of Africa
I shall be free one day
Free from the negative,stereotyped,crowded fucked up situations we live in.
A home we should call it.Well, its not for some of us
Its three roomed housed containers with walls closed up and closing up people’s minds
Because they believe, yes they believe
A man needs to work which is why every end of the month
He drowns himself in a beer drum & fights with the rest of the street and his family
He calls her names and tells her she’s a bitch
Because he buys her food, she dont see nothing wrong
Well, i refuse to tolerate such animals
Because i am a true and original Blessed queen
A woman full of love
A Goddess born to change their mindests
It is with me that they will realise
She was born for a reason
She was created for love, by love, for a woman
The woman within a woman
No one can take that away from me
I am who I am!!!

 

Busi along with Buhle Msibi who both died at the age of 25 will be remembered on 6th April 2013