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Mapping Our Histories: A Visual History of Black Lesbians in Post-Apartheid South Africa by Zanele Muholi Without a visual identity we have no community, no support network, no movement. Making ourselves visible is a continual process. Joan E Brien (1983)

Figure 1: Being, Apinda Mpako and Ayanda Magudulela, Parktown, Johannesburg (2007)


1. Abstract

2. Introduction 3. South African Queer History: a critical reflection 4. Visual Activism projects 4.1 Hate crimes 4.2 HIV/AIDS pandemic 4.3 Portraits: Faces & Phases 4.4 Being 4.5 Massa & Mina(h) 5. Methodology 6. Disseminating projects 7. Reflections 8. Conclusions 9. References Acknowledgments

This paper is both a textual and a visual analysis of the making/mapping/ preserving of radical black lesbian visual history in post-Apartheid South Africa. Using my own works of photography, I explore how visual activism can be employed by socially, culturally and economically marginalized women as a site of resistance to not only return the gaze of our colonizers, but to develop what bell hooks has called a critical gaze into heteropatriarchal constructions of black womens bodies and their sexualities. With thematic projects evoked by womens own experiences, I partly address the epidemic of hate crimes that has escalated in the past few years, claiming many black lesbian lives in the townships. I argue that queerphobia and hate crimes have further silenced and sanctioned our voices. I reflect on such issues through my previous works entitled Only Half the Picture (20032005) and ongoing visual explorations like the Being series (2007), Faces & Phases (2007) and Massa & Mina(h)(2008). I also explore how I have moved from being a lesbian and human rights activist to becoming a visual activist and artist, tracing how my work has developed. Much of this is about reflecting on my work over the past 6 years, and taking stock of the many complexities of being both an insider and an outsider.

Introduction In the late 1980s and early1990s, as South African was in the height of its historic anti-Apartheid struggle against white minority rule, the country saw the emergence of not only a lesbian, gay, bi, transgender/transsexual (LGBT) movement, but a national queer literature and cinema chronicling the experiences of LGBT peoples. However, despite the fact that these materials featured a few prominent black lesbian voices, there was a noticeable lack of visual representation within South Africa of my community, and the many queer women who existed and contributed to our LGBT struggles for rights and freedoms. When black lesbians did have their stories recorded and their lives related through interviews, it was done and written about by outsiders of the community heterosexuals and/or queers from overseas. In those days, we could not find visual or textual works produced from within the black lesbian community itself. The primary reason for this being our lack of access to education, employment, safe housing, supportive queer structures, and financial resourcesthe majority of us continue to live in the economically and spatially marginalized townships that were created during the Apartheid era, and which are many miles from the urban centers that house LGBT organizations. Having been a research subject myself, informing many outside experts about our existence, lives, and realities, I began to wonder in 2001 how I could turn myself and my community from being objectified to become the producers of our own histories, knowledges, and subjectivities. I was angry for having been used for the gaze of others, and instead wanted to us to do for ourselves. I envisioned us speaking to each other using visuals because anyone can look and have thoughts about a photograph or a film, even if they are illiterate. I wished for us to stare back as black lesbian-identified women, to

resist and challenge the idea that our bodies can be researched, understood, displayed for heterosexual and western consumption. My objective was to produce work for the very same subjects I would capture, in order for them/us/me to see our likenesses, and for the future generations to have a point of reference in our collective memories, in the archives, and beyond. The following paper explores the lives and visual histories of black lesbian women in post-Apartheid South Africa. My own understanding of a visual history includes all forms of representation through different productions of portraits, photographs, art works, documentaries, films, audio material, and videos that mark the historical and present existences of same gender loving women and lesbian women within black South African culture and society. I have named my project Mapping Our Histories: A visual history of black lesbians in post-Apartheid South Africa for two reasons: first, because we do not yet have such a history in the form of representation; and second, because like the drawing of a road map full of roads, rivers, cities, mountain ranges and valleys, our black lesbian history is not linear, but crisscrosses and intersects with our race, gender, sexuality, class, and colonial histories. The project aims to interrogate the photographic representation of identity within the broader framework of identity formation in South Africa. It focuses on the complexities of our black lesbian identities, and on working to reduce the dearth of black lesbian visual histories, narratives, and representation in the archives. If there is one purpose to my work, it is to undo our black lesbian underexposure and invisibility, and to resist the censorship and control that still exists over our bodies in South Africa due to the intersection of our colonial and Apartheid past. Present day queer, lesbian, and transphobic hate crimes are the consequences of this past and are felt

deeply by us all. Ensuring that our collective visual narratives and imageries as black lesbiansespecially those of us who come from marginalized spacesform part of South Africas national collective memory is a form of resistance. I /we will not be silent because it is the lives of our people that form our communities of lesbians, and I agree strongly with Joan E. Brien that without a visual identity we are left without support, community, and a movement. As such, creating visual space for our histories within the South African nation building project itself, and within the archival system of the nation, is significant. It is a risky and highly political act of resistance because the social pathologization of black and African lesbian desire, intimacy and relationships still causes our spirits and bodies to be violated and raped. My own long term vision as a visual and lesbian rights activist is to work towards creating a black lesbian archive in South Africa, one that is modeled after the Lesbian Herstory Archives in New York City, created by the lesbian feminist writer and activist Joan Nestle. The paper is divided into 5 main parts. First, I will do a brief critical overview of our queer and lesbian history in South Africa in order to situate my work. Second, I will contextualize my work and the meaning of visual activism. Third, I will discuss and reflect on my methodological approaches to research and visual activism. Fourth, I discuss dissemination and distribution strategies. Fifth, I will reflect on the complexities of my roles as an activist, researcher, participant, artist and insider within the black lesbian community of South Africa. The questions I have been guided by are: Why do we need a black lesbian visual history? Who is it going to feature and whom is it going to serve? Who is the decision maker about what this history will look like? Where and how is it going to be accessed?

South African Queer History: a critical reflection Despite the fall of political Apartheid in 1994, post-Apartheid South African society is still burdened by unequal power relations based on intersecting and hierarchical constructions of racialized, gendered, classed, and heterosexual privileges. For the majority of black lesbians and transmen, the everyday lived experience of black majority rule and democracy is still dominated by violent forms of homophobia, misogyny, and the lack of access to adequate and affordable housing, healthcare, education, and jobs. As black women, lesbians, and transmen, we continue to live on the margins of society, still struggling to claim our sexual citizenship, visibility, and safety in the public sphere. This section paper of the paper will provide a brief historical synopsis of queer politics in South Africa since the late 1980s/early 1990s when black gays and lesbians began to organize politically for their rights. It will also provide an analysis of why black lesbian images and voices continue to be absent within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex people (LGBTI) and womens movements, and highlight some of the brave warrior women who have in reality paved the way for our future generations of lesbians and transmen to live a life free of violent homophobia, racism, and sexism. For decades black lesbians have been contributing to the history of South Africa, and to the communities where we live and work. However, due to the intersecting legacies of both external and internal colonialisms, racialized and heterosexualized patriarchies, and Black nationalism, our lesbian visibility and voices continue to remain on the margins. Historically, we lack the necessary access to economic, political, and socio-cultural resources to combat this silencing of our histories and contributions, and many have died in the anti-apartheid struggle, either of gender and homophobic-based

violence, or of HIV/AIDS without realizing the dream of being recognized as valuable members of our communities, families, places of work, and nation. For example, it was not until after 1994 that texts began to emerge within the academy on our existence and lives. Prior to 1994, activists and scholars/researchers tended to focus on the emergence of the political gay and lesbian movement and on legal battles to be fought by gays and lesbians who were seeking inclusion in the shaping of democracy during the transition period between 1990 and 1994 when democratic elections were officially held in South Africa for the first time. However, gay white men overwhelmingly dominated these movements, and if scholars did write about race, it was on the racialized/black gay male experience that they focused.2 While texts are beginning to include us today, our identities and lives continue to remain under-documented and under-theorized as they are prescribed and conceptualized not by us, but by those outside our communities.3 In their introduction to Tommy Boys, Lesbian Men and Ancestral Wives (2006), authors Ruth Morgan and Saskia Wieringa state that the silence in which most African women in same-sex relations live their lives causes their marginalization from society. Coming out of the closet may offer the tenuous comfort of the support of an embattled group of LGBTI activists, but it is often also very dangerous. They may lose whatever support their families afforded them and may be evicted from their homes. (Morgan and Wieringa 2005: 19) Silence isolates us at the same time that it protects us. Yet as Morgan and Wieringa document, we are beginning to speak, organizing, and fight the discriminatory laws and socio-cultural codes of our country. I need to underscore that naming ourselves and being is more than a fashion statement or a research topic. Rather, it is a political consciousness that we do not have a

choice about. To be black, lesbian and African is by its very nature political in a world that is still overwhelmingly heterosexual, and where whiteness and European ways are still valued more than blackness and Africanness. Naming and being is an act that demands that we organize ourselves politically and socially as black women who intimately love other women. The power of naming means to put something into existence. As long as it is not named and there is no concept of it, it can neither be appreciated nor be denounced which amounts to non-existence). 4 (Schuhman, 2008:38)

Figure 2: Julia and Mandoza Hokwana, Lakeside, Johannesburg (2007) Figure 3: Musa Ngubane and Mabongi Ndlovu, Hillbrow, Johannesburg 2007

During Apartheid, the white minority government controlled by the National Party tightly regulated and racialized sexuality by imposing laws criminalizing


homosexuality and inter-racial sexual relationships through the Morality Act of 1957. As queers, we were seen as a threat to the ordering of racial hierarchy and white supremacy through our homosexuality and our blackness. White supremacy is premised not only on a notion of racial purity and the invented notion of racial hierarchies, but on heterosexuality. While lesbians were seldom a focus of the Apartheid States attention, womens sexuality and activity was tightly regulated because we have the abilities to reproduce and inter-racial reproduction was outlawed. The focus of homosexual regulation therefore was primarily on white gay men and inter-racial homosexuality. 5 (Elder, 2003) According to Sabine Neidhardt, this racialized and gendered sexual regulation during the Apartheid era may be one reason why lesbians in general, and black lesbians in particular, have been so neglected within the research and literature until 1994.6 (Neidhardt, 2006)

Prior to 1990, the year of the first Gay Pride march in Johannesburg, our faces and voices as black lesbians were never even imagined. According to anti-Apartheid and gay rights activists Sheila Lapinsky and Mazibuko Jara, a gay black presence began to come out strongly in South Africa only in 1986. This was the year anti-apartheid activist Simon Nkoli, a black member of the non-racial Gay Association of South Africa (GASA), was arrested and charged with treason along with 21 other men in what became known as the Delmas Treason Trial. Despite his activism in both the anti-Apartheid movement and the anti-homophobia campaigns against the Apartheid government, GASAs internal white and middle class race politics prevented the organization from supporting Nkoli publicly, which led to GASA being expelled from the International Gay and Lesbian Association in 1987. As a result, black gay organizations formed as a way of collectively organizing against, and resisting homophobia, racism, and Apartheid.


However, these were spaces dominated politically and structurally by black gay men. While such lesbian organizations as Association of Bisexuals, Gays, and Lesbians (ABIGALE) emerged in 1992, and Cape Town and Sundays Women in Durban popped up in the 1980s, they too were dominated by white lesbians who concerned themselves with feminist issues that tended to be silent on the political economy of race in South Africa. Moreover, as Lapinsky and Jara argue, black lesbians seldom linked up with the mainly white lesbian organizations not only because they felt excluded, but because exposing themselves as lesbians may have alienated them from their more conservative black comrades in the anti-Apartheid struggle.7 (Lapinsky and Jara, 1998)

As the country saw its first Gay Pride march in Johannesburg in September 1989, six months before the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in February 1990, black lesbians such as Bev Ditsie and Phumi Mtetwa began to come out publicly to speak about being black African, female, and lesbian. This was a time when many black queers felt more comfortable marching with paper bags covering their faces. In the early 1990s, Prudence Mabele was the first black lesbian to come out publicly to speak not only about her lesbian sexuality, but also about her HIV/AIDS status. She later started and leads the HIV/AIDS organization Positive Womens Network and continues to thrive and survive the disease. As Donald L. Donham remarked, by the late 1980, it was clear to everyone in South Africa that a new society was in process of being born.8 (Donham, 1998)


Figure 4: Being, Mpumi Mathabela, Parktown, Johannesburg (2007)

Yet, despite the political engagements by black lesbians, the gendered tensions between lesbians and gay men continued, making an intersectional analysis of a radical queer history of South Africa so very important to our understanding of the complex dynamics today. Some reasons for this continued tension may be, according to Neidhardt, that while black gay men had international support from white gay organizations abroad especially those in Britain, the Netherlands and Canada, who got strongly involved and joined the anti-Apartheid movement after Nkolis arrestblack lesbians were struggling against the triple bias of homophobia, sexism, patriarchy, and racism.9 Even in the post-


1994 era, and after the 1996 Constitution included sexual orientation in its Equality Clause, the issues that dominated LGBTI legal struggles rarely addressed the complex socio-cultural issues and economic struggles faced by black lesbians. For instance, while sodomy laws were officially ruled as unconstitutional and then decriminalized in South Africa by the Constitutional Court in 1999, lesbians had little to benefit as the laws did not apply to them. In 2000, the courts ruled that excluding homosexuals from pension funds was unconstitutional, and in 2001, the Pretoria High Court ruled same-sex adoption discrimination by the Child Care Act and the Guardianship Act as unconstitutional.10 (Cock, 2001:39)

While in theory these legal victories are for the benefit of all, in reality, the majority of black lesbian women have neither the access to education or high enough paying jobs to access pension funds. With the official unemployment rate in South Africa at 36%, the majority of under-educated lesbians in my community are either jobless or under-employed. While we do not have official statistics on the unemployment status of lesbians as they are categorized only by gender, age and geographic location, the unemployment rate of black women in South Africa is at 52%.11 (Marais, 2001:175) Moreover, to fight against sexual and gender discrimination using the Constitution costs much in legal fees, money the majority of lesbians in my community do not have as they struggle to access safe housing, food for their children, and adequate and affordable health care. Shefer and Potgieter also rightly make the comment that:

While the Constitution clearly protects sexual rights, and there is evidently more space for alternative sexual practices and identities in South Africa with legal victories (such as the recent recognition of legal relationships between homosexual partners) securing constitutional and social gains in lived experience, South Africa remains a highly homophobic, heterosexist culture where heterosexuality is privileged above other forms of sexuality as the ideal, correct form of sexuality and relationship. 12 (Shefer and


Potgieter 2006: 104)

Visual Activism Photography and sociology have approximately the same birth date, if you count sociology's birth as the publication of Comte's work, which gave it its name, and photography's birth as the date in 1839 when Daguerre made public his method for fixing an image on a metal plate. Like sociologists, photographers have been concerned, in their professional lives, with contemporary social problems: immigration, poverty, racism, and social unrest. Both have studied occupations and related institutions of work, social classes, communities, cities, societies, and cultures. From its beginnings, photography has been used as a tool for the exploration of society, and photographers have taken that as one of their tasks. Among its several uses, photography has been a tool to explore society, thereby entering upon common ground with sociology. - Howard Becker, Northwestern University No matter what the method, we need to be conscious of our own positioning in relation to the researched and the social and political context in which the research occurs. 13 -South African gender scholars Tamara Shefer and Cheryl Potgieter (2006: 104)

The act of taking a photograph and preserving a life moment has always fascinated me, especially since within my Zulu culture this was the role of men. Even women were subjects captured almost exclusively by the male gaze. As such, I first began to document and take pictures informally at events and parties that had to do with my own personal life as a way of asserting my right to record my life. In 2001, I took a photography course at Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg. Market Photo was set up by my mentor and famed South African photographer David Goldblatt in order that young and economically marginalized (read: black) photographers could gain access to training and skills. Having been a lesbian and human rights activist in Johannesburg for years, I began seriously to commit myself to visual activism, especially after I was given the chance to pursue a project that dealt with my life and work.


In a class of 13 students, I decided to focus on my community and our racialized, classed, and gendered lesbian sexualities. From the beginning, then, my photography dealt with black womens subjectivities. Since the advent of colonialism in Africa, black female bodies have been positioned as objects for western science to explore, and open to being gendered spectacles for European consumption. In my own practice, therefore, I actively chose to work against this by ensuring that the photographs I produced of black womens bodies would no longer subject us to spectacle or the exclusive male gaze. The photographs were for us to re-image and re-imagine ourselves, to see likenesses and to celebrate our diverse embodiments of what it means to be a lesbian in South Africa. At Market Photo Workshop, I had full support from the director who encouraged me to pursue my project on black female sexualities, as he believed that it spoke to me and my cause photography as a tool for social change. However, not everyone was as supportive, and one male student dropped out of the program in 2004, saying he was offended by the images of African women portrayed as lesbians. The notion of homosexuality as un-African was introduced to us by our European colonizers, and today this attitude is expressed most often in the ideas that black women who are lesbians are just disappointed by men, or that they are trying to be white since homosexuality is seen as a white thing. But as Donna Smith, former director of Forum for the Empowerment of Women explains, some people believe homosexuality is an idea brought [to Africa] by the white man. But it has always been here. What the white man brought was homophobia clothed in religious doctrines that we did not have before. (Smith, 2006) Nonetheless, such ideas and statements were still being made, even though South Africa was celebrating 10 years of democracy and human rights in that same year.


In March of 2004, I had my first solo exhibition at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, as part of student exhibition called Visual Sexuality. In August of that year, I participated in a show for Womens Month entitled Is Anybody Comfortable? I can still recall the impact those 14 photographs had on the audience. There was a sense of shock, and people described their feelings as they read the text and the images. Some of my work went over some peoples heads and they did not understand the intentions of my photographs. Others felt violated as they did not expect to see images of black women in intimate lesbian contexts in a public gallery. Viewers were encouraged to write their comments in a book. There were those who recommended scriptures, stating that homosexuals need to be prayed for to change their queer behaviour. At the end of that year some journalist began to call me a controversial lesbian photographer which I took as a derogatory remark. That same year, I participated in a poster presentation at that University of Western Cape, for the Gender & Visuality conference. The public space in which many other photographs were displayed became the most frequented area of the conference, with people inviting others to see my shocking images. It was after those 3 exhibitions that my photographs gained national media publicity. At this early stage, my photographs were not funded as I was delving into a taboo matter. I received support solely from friends and acquaintances who are participants and not subjects in my projects. I used both 35mm and 120mm film with still camera. My preferable colour was black and white, because I liked the texture and classical feel it creates in photos. In none of my work do I use fancy equipment and artificial lights. In one of the interviews I confessed that the images that I captured were not stolen glances and that the work was preservative free, no special lighting, and make-up


(Mask Admin, 2006: Online). I wanted my work and my people to be presented in the most natural manner to reveal the intimacy about the women featuring in it, and to highlight the relationships between the women and me, relationships of friendship, familiarity, and solidarity. In 2004, I also initiated the first Photo XPphoto experience classes designed to encourage young black lesbians in my community to document their own lives and histories. I believe that not only could I not document a collective history on my own, but that I should not be the only black lesbian to create what is a collective experience of us for us. I believe many different voices are needed in order to effect real social and cultural change at the grassroots. I have continued with this training annually since then, and will speak more on the meaning of Photo XP below. So far, over 60 women have been trained in basic photography, documentation, and community research skills. As an activist who has worked in the LGBTI sector for many years, I co-founded the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) in 2002. My vision for FEW was for black lesbian women to have a safe space to go, to organize for the opportunities to access services like healthcare, education, employment, and housing, without being judged or discriminated for their sexualities. The organization has since taken off and has been approached by both domestic and overseas scholars, and mainstream media. FEW provided what little information that existed then about our socio-political lives. While mainstream media tended to sensationalize our stories, researchers took our information and stories and packaged it for academic use. It was hard for us to access their academic theories and their writings about us. It was also offensive to be told about us by someone elseespecially when we continue to struggle for our safety in the townships while researchers have the privilege to leave and return to their secure academic lives.


These experiences of being sensationalized, researched, and written about left me feeling disempowered and exploited. I then reached a point in my life where I told myself we can do it for ourselves. I fact, I began to understand at the gut level that if we are to survive as a community and to build our dignity as black lesbians, we had to tell our own stories and create our own histories. In 2006, I had my second solo exhibition entitled Only Half the Picture, in which I told a narrative that was not chronological, but reflective of the complexities of black female subjectivities within the post-apartheid South African context. (Muholi, 2006: 4) My anticipation was to force the viewer to rethink how they viewed black African lesbians. I focused on the struggles we still face as lesbians, despite a constitution that guaranteed our freedom from discrimination. I chronicled the reality of hate crimes, sexual violations, and torments that many in my community face. My critical aim was for everyone to see and hear the anguish women experience, and I hoped to dissipate stereotypes of black lesbian women in South Africa. My approach to my second solo exhibition in 2006 was different than the first one. In that series of photographs there were images of my own menstrual blood mixed with intimate images of lesbian couples and of hate crime survivors. I tried in this exhibition to highlight the physically and emotionally brutal aftermath of those incidents. My self-portraits were included in that series as I believed that one should interrogate the self as much as others. Documenting black lesbianswomen who are my friends, neighbours, acquaintances, kids the ages of my own nieceshas not come easy for me. I deal with their traumas. I sit with rape survivors, HIV positive friends who have survived curative rapes and cry with them. I take them to hospital and talk with their families. I go to their funerals when they are brutally murdered for being lesbians as was the case in


2007 with Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Masooa. I mourn with the families as their beloved pass away from AIDS related diseases and suicide. This is where my activism and my art becomes what to me is visual activism. From where I come, it will always be activism before aesthetics. bell hooks encapsulates well what I would like to convey by stating: I have approached my work by rooting them in personal reflection, in thinking activism and thinking black. I have had the pain of fragmentation deeply impressed upon my consciousness. The alienation felt by many people who are concerned about domination the struggles we have even to make of our words a language that can be shared, understood. bell hooks, Talking Back (1989:3)

Below, I will briefly outline how the experiences of my community of hate crimes and living and dying with HIV/AIDS have shaped my projects, my relationship to my subjects, art work, my political commitments, my visual activism. Hate crimes In South African black culture, being a black lesbian is seen as negative, as destroying the nuclear heterosexual family, and as un-African. There are expectations that African women must have children and procreate with a male partner who is to be the head of the family. It is said that is part of the African tradition. Failing to conform to these expectations, we are perceived as deviants, deserving curative rape to erase our desires to be male. Curative rapes, as they are called, are perpetrated against us in order to make us into real and true African womenappropriately feminine, mothers, mens property. All such negative connotations distort the beautiful image of this subculture of women.


In 1996 I experienced a severe hate crime when I was beaten up by my former girlfriends mother. Her mother believed that I was a pervert who promoted homosexuality and made her daughter into a lesbian. We broke up after that. This experience was a wake up call about the effects of lesbophobic attacks. Six years later, I started documenting hate crimes. I journeyed the townships and listened to and recorded more than 50 cases. I conducted interviews and recorded survivors to mark their experiences, resistance and existence as black lesbians in the country, as I believed that it is important to put a face on each and every issue. In narrative and visual research what I called A Township TaleI began in 2002 after Tshidi Telekoa came out and related her testimony of being attacked by her neighbor and could not get any support from her family.14 In 2003, Kekeletso Khena related her case of being a rape survivor as a teenager. She later became a spokesperson for The Rose Has Thorns campaign mounted by Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) in 2003. Phumla Masango was another woman whose girlfriends former boyfriend verbally abused her, but could not have her case heard in court because the alleged accused was a policeman. These are some of the narratives and experiences of brutal violence from the women in my community. In 2003, I had the unexpected opportunity to interview a self-identified rapist of lesbian women. He gave me much insight into what motivated him and made him perpetrate hate crime. This rare exchange between a black lesbian, and one time potential target of his rage, and a man who made the conscious decision to control lesbian women through rape was not lost on either of us, despite the unplanned and spontaneous nature of our exchange. The following is what 'Xolani' (pseudonym) confessed to me. I use the


word confessed here because I neither requested the interview with him, nor prompted him to explain his actions. He simply asked if he could speak to me because he had something on his mind. As related in Xolanis words and translated from Zulu into English: It happened in 1996 when me and three of my gangsters raped a lesbian friend of ours We all knew that she was a virgin, but we wanted to prove her wrong that she was not a man One day she came to us after school, to hang out like always We had already planned what we wanted to do We took turns raping her and told her that if she reported us to the police we were going to kill her family. She did not go to the police, as she was scared for her life. I repent for what we did and wish I could apologize to her for what we did, it was just ignorance that led to that brutality.15

Currently South Africa has no anti-hate crime legislation. Black lesbians in the country experience rape from gangs, from so called friends, neighbours, even sometimes family members. Some of the curative rapes inflicted on our bodies are reported to the police, but many others go unreported. The rampant hate crimes are used to make black lesbians invisible, because coming out exposes us to the harshness of patriarchal pressures. Challenging the norms of compulsory heterosexuality has put many at risk. Here is a list of a few women who have been brutally raped or murdered for being lesbian in the last 3 years, despite the success of South Africa being one of only 5 countries in the world to pass the legalization of same-sex unions under the Civil Union Act of 2006. 2006: Zoliswa Nkonyana, aged 19, was stoned to death for being openly lesbian by 20 young men in the Cape Town township of Khayelitsha; 2006: Madoe Mafubedu, aged 16, was raped and stabbed to death in Soweto;


2007: Sizakele Sigasa, a lesbian activist living in Soweto, and her partner Salome Masooa were raped, tortured, and murdered in July; 2007: Thokozane Qwabe was found callously murdered in Ezakheni, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal; 2007: Simangele Nhlapo, member of an HIV-positive support group, as well as her twoyear-old daughter were raped and murdered in June; 2008: Eudy Simelane, a Banyana Banyana soccer player, was murdered in Kwa-Thema, Springs.

HIV/AIDS pandemic

In March 2009 I witnessed the death of a 35 years old friend, two other closest friends died respectively in 2007 and 2006. Each one succumbed to AIDS-related complications. The ongoing marginalization of black lesbians or women who have sex with women in South Africas health sector is a major area that still has to be advocated for. Adequate, affordable, and sensitive medical services are not yet available to meet the needs of the many lesbians who are HIV positive. There is a need for safe and affordable barrier methods for women who have sex with women. According to Neidhardt, there are complex dynamics of HIV/AIDS complicated by class, gender, race, and white privilege in South Africas health sector in her article. She ponders the hate speech and ill treatment that Buhle Msibi, an HIV-positive black lesbian who had developed AIDS, encountered at the hands of staff in a private hospital outside of Johannesburg. Msibi was declared unworthy of basic dignity and care weeks before she passed away on April 1, 2006. She was 24 and was a former colleague at the Forum for the Empowerment of


Women (FEW), as well as a poet, writer, and mother to her son Nkosana. In her own words she emphasized the issue of motherhood and sexuality when she wrote I believe that we are capable of giving birth I am a proud mother of a six year old boy. In one of her last performances during Pride week in September 2005, she recited a poem dedicated to her son titled: Mfana wami My boy. Shine my beautiful diamond

The sun is willing to enhance your galactic glow Fly my colorful butterfly Summer is yours to spread your wings and your colours of love Flow my strings, flow endlessly to the ocean and let be no one to stop you Be all that you can be, let nothing stop you from being you. My son, thats my boy. 16

Msibi fought tirelessly for the rights of HIV-positive lesbians and others, but could not access dignity and care at the end of her life. She never lived long enough to witness her sons first day at school. On the day of her mothers 43rd birthday, she died at Sizwe Tropical Hospital from drug-resistant TB. Her TB is what her private health care providers failed to notice. Interestingly, Msibis own work and contribution to the struggle against the stigma of HIV/AIDS was marred by the parallel struggle against the homophobia she endured in these very same organizations that fought the AIDS stigma.

On March 12, 2007 the lesbian community lost Busi Sigasa (25) to AIDS. I lost a friend. She worked tirelessly for FEW, and gave her energies to the One in Nine Campaign that advocates for political and moral support to women survivors of sexual


assault. Just like any other outspoken survivor, Sigasa used poetry as a means of voicing her concerns, of communicating with her peers, and for healing. She endured bashings and multiple rapes because of her lesbianism. She contracted HIV/AIDS after she was raped near her home. As if she had a premonition that she was going to pass on, she wrote Remember Me When Im Gone and the Fact Remains just before her passing:

The Fact Remains Theres no point in blaming myself or anyone the fact remains. Theres no use in you asking me why I never told you because the fact remains. I tried, you had no time and you were always busy and occupied I dont blame you either because no matter what the fact remains. Im not looking for sympathy or feeling sorry things happened this way nothing anyone can say will change anything because the fact remains. I am now counted in the statistics because the fact remains Dont tell me I should have never allowed my story to be published because. The fact remains You dont know how I feel-no one does and the the fact remains. Dont tell me what people might say or think because the fact remains. Its not going to change anything Dont ask me who was my rapist because it makes me mad But mad as I can be and for everyones sake and my own Life goes on and still The fact remainsthat I AM INFECTED!!! 17


Figure 5 Late Busi Sigasa, Constitution Hill, Hillbrow (2006)

I am very keen on documenting works of such women as Busi Sigasa, a lesbian and womens rights activist and poet, because they write about the reality of our lives quite simply. In her poem The Fact Remains she speaks about her struggles as a HIV-positive lesbian despite the denial of her humanity and the ongoing struggle to attain all of the rights other South Africans enjoy. I feel such candid and personal writings are essential in helping others to know that they are not alone. More so these are the documents that need to live on! As Audre Lorde told us long ago, Our labor has become more important than our silence.18 Busi and Buhle laboured for us through their activist work and through the powerful words they left behind. I, in turn, choose to immortalize their work. A community with no history is doomed to repeat its mistakes. All the three deceased women were friends that I lost. It is through the womens experiences like hate crimes and HIV/AIDS cases that I have recorded that agitated my visual activism so that the


world knows are about ongoing struggles of lesbians. These documentations mark these incidents, as well as our existence and resistance as black lesbians in the country as I believe that it is important to put a face to each and every issue. In the following, I will discuss the transition from capturing hard and raw images to photographs that are more nuanced. In late 2006 and 2007, I embarked on the Faces & Phases and Being series which captures the diversity of lesbians in our different communities.

Faces & Phases Black lesbians have very low visibility in terms of our past. - Ruth Morgan, former Director GALA (2005)

There was a time when we black people needed other people to speak for us because we could not always speak for ourselves. And though I am very grateful to white historians and the like who worked to inform people about black experiencewe can do speak for ourselves. And our struggle today is to be heard. -bell hooks, Talking Back (1989:83) With Faces & Phases, I intended to show our emerging South African black lesbian aesthetics through portraiture, especially because positive images of us within the womens and queer archives are almost non-existent. Natasha Distiller argues that a vocabulary to represent lesbian desire and the pleasures of their fulfillment is provided by a linguistic and representational system which has no space to engage with the notion of the lesbian, except in relation to its own hetero/sexuality (Distiller 2005:45). I wanted to resist the heterosexual representation of lesbians through portraits.


Historically, portraits serve as memorable records for families and friends as evidence when someone passes. Faces express the persons, and Phases signifies the transition from one stage of sexuality or gender expression and experience to another. Faces is also about the face to face confrontation between me as the photographer/ activist and the many lesbians I interact with from different Gauteng and Cape Town townships such as Alexandra, Soweto, Vosloorus, Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Katlehong and Kagiso. One of our collective painful experiences as a community is the loss of friends and acquaintances through disease and hate crimes. Some of these participated in my visual projects. What is left behind now is the individual portrait that works as a site of memory for us, as a trace of who and what existed in a particular space at this particular moment when our black lesbian and South African histories intersect.

The project features black and white photographs of butches and femmes from various townships who defy homophobia and the stigmas attached to their lesbian identity. Individuals who participated are friends and acquaintances who hold different positions in the community such as soccer players, actresses, scholars, activists, lawyers, dancers, filmmakers and writers. Hate crimes and negativity towards queer community has distorted the positive images of black lesbians. Each time we are represented by outsiders, the image represented portrays victims rather than victors. It is that kind of sensationalism that motivated the core of these images in order to resist victimhood. The viewers are also forced to engage with the question of what does a lesbian look like? Is there a lesbian aesthetic or do we express our gendered, racialized, and classed selves in rich and diverse ways? I wanted the viewer to ask herselfis this lesbian more authentic than that lesbian because one wears a tie and the other not? Is this a man or a


woman, or a transman? Can you identify a rape survivor by the clothes she wears? Leaving the viewer to wonder is one strategy of disorganizing the gendering and the sexualizing that goes into the heterosexual script.

Figure 10: Faces & Phases: Siyafana, 2008

More Faces & Phases photos... Faces & Phases portraits have now expanded into a new phase which is in button format.


In this way, participants can take direct ownership of their images. The strategy is designed to create an easy, accessible, and mobile archive. Individuals make decisions on how, where and when this could be accessed. Buttons have a long history of acting as messages of protest against injustice, especially during the anti-Apartheid struggles globally. I use buttons to mark the existence of black lesbians. In addition, buttons are also used as a new medium of producing an archivable material in large quantities for this visual history. There are 5 buttons produced per image. Two go to the participant, two are kept by the author, and one will contribute to the Black Lesbian Memory Project initiated by FEW in 2008. The Memory Project aims to archive black lesbian lives. Being (2007)

Figure 12: from Being series Katlego Mashiloane & Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2 Lakeside, Johannesburg, 2007


Being series continues to explore the love and intimacy within our relationships regardless of the on-going pain and struggles that we face. My projects are about our histories, struggles and lives. Lovers and friends consented to participate in the project, willing to bare and express their love for each other. Each photograph features a couple in their different settings of their daily lives, and within their daily routine.

I have the choice to portray my community in a manner that will turn us once again into a commodity to be consumed by the outside world, or to create a body of meaning that is welcomed by us as a community of queer black women. I choose the latter path, because it is through capturing the visual pleasures and erotica of my community that our being comes into focus, into community and national consciousness. And it is through seeing ourselves as we find love, laughter, joy that we can sustain our strength and regain our sanity as we move into a future that is sadly still filled with the threat of insecurities - HIV/AIDS, hate crimes, violence against women, poverty and unemployment.



Figure 13: from Mass & Mina(h) photos I & II captured in Cape Town (2008), and photo III in Boston (2009)


In this latest project Massa and Mina(h) ( 2008), I turn my own black body into a subject of art. I allow various photographers to capture my image as directed by me. I use performativity to deal with the still racialized issues of female domesticityblack women doing housework for white families. The project is based on the life and story of my mother. I draw on my own memories, and pay tribute to her domesticated role as a worker for the same family for 42 years. The series is also meant to acknowledge all domestic workers around the globe who continue to labour with dignity, while often facing physical, financial, and emotional abuses in their place of work. There continues to be little recognition and little protection from the state for the hard labour these women perform to feed and clothe and house their families. The abovementioned projects have had a great impact on participants and allies to begin to understand the importance of our history, and for service providers to grapple with and include our lesbian issues in their mandates. Scholars are now contextualizing the subject matter differently and engaging with participants at first hand. The photographs are also used to create dialogues at events and in platforms where gender is discussed. I believe the mindset of people is changing slowly, though it will take time to completely erase the homophobia and stigma attached to our identities.


Within the last five years, I have used multiple methodologies as a way of


ensuring that my work is in keeping within a critical and activist framework. My visuals are about creating social change for my community and that means I must involve my black lesbian township community. I am conscious of my status as both an insider and outsider. Gallerists, academics, feminists and researchers define me as an artist but I am an activist before I am an artist. I capture images of black lesbians through first hand experience.

One strategy I employ as a visual activist is to share my photography skills with my community by facilitating annual visual literacy/photo experience classes as I already mentioned above. I would like to elaborate here on the necessity of this. By empowering marginalized women to become researchers of their own lives and realities we are able to undo the stigmas put on us and present aspects of our lives that we hold dear to us. Their photographs then become part of the exhibitions I hold, and often I refrain from exhibiting my own work because I want their work to shine and to speak. At other times, I have made sure that those who have participated in my photographs are the ones to go to conferences in order that they can experience traveling and being the experts of their own worlds. I first initiated the self-funded visual literacy/photo experience in 2004 with a group of 14 women in Johannesburg and 7 in Pretoria. Both groups were young black lesbians from various townships. I continued to facilitate in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008. The latest sessions of this program were in 2008, in the Cape Town townships of Khayelitsha and Gugulethu. I worked with eight black lesbian youth between the ages of 18-29. The theme for the project was Indawo Yami My Place. The photographs produced would later form part of the community archive and would be presented at


different conferences. These same women later participated in the Faces & Phases (2008). So far more than 60 women have been trained to become knowledge producers and experts of their own lives. Some of the participants in those programs have also inspired my photographic projects like Only Half the Picture, Being series, and Faces & Phases, 2003-2008 works. My methodologies for these projects are also partly ethnographic and partly autoethnographic. I have drawn much from Carol Elliss understanding and practice of autoethnography. She defines auto-ethnography as a reflexive connection [that] exists between the lives of participants and researchers and that this relationship itself must be explored and become a focus for inquiry. She says that auto-ethnography overlaps art and science by being partly about self and partly about culture. She suggests that this is different from traditional ethnographic research because it captures the subjective experiences of people within their social and culture worlds, and does not aim to reduce peoples experiences to scientifically tested theories and objective reality. (Ellis 2004: 2931) I am socially located as a black, township born and raised, working class, lesbian woman, this methodology is chosen because of my insider/outsider status within the black lesbian community of Johannesburg. I am on a continuous journey of selfreflection as I attempt to bring visibility to what has historically been the visually suppressed identities of black lesbiansand my own lesbian subjectivity. To me this means that I must always be careful not to reify my multiple positions in the community as lesbian rights and anti-violence/anti-hate crimes activist, as visual artist, and as scholar- activist researcher. I believe a power dynamic between researcher and researched, photographer and subject will ultimately remain because of the spaces I can


access, and the access to power that I enjoy simply because people see me as an activist/artist/expert. If I dont constantly think about myself in relation to power, I risk further marginalizing my people and not working toward our liberation. Ellis also points out that auto-ethnographic research is often about interpretive narratives and story telling. She states stories are the ways human make sense of their worlds. (Ellis 2004: 32) The visual narratives I present in this project are accompanied by black lesbian women speaking their stories for themselves. For this reason, I try often to provide accompanying text such as poems or statements from the women themselves. I also use participant observations as methodology. I simply share those emotional spaces where peoples lives play out such as weddings, funerals, protests, pride marches, lesbian contests, sports tournaments, and conferences in which data is collected. My intended audiences are community members and participants themselves, organic intellectuals who serve people at grassroots level, activists, and service providers.

Dissemination Strategies In this section I discuss some dissemination strategies that I have used to get the social issues I am trying to highlight through my work out into the mainstream. I will also mention some of the venues at which I have circulated my photographic projects.


Conferences and Academic Spaces

I have learned to use the academic, feminist, and activist interest in my work and projects in order to queer what are still very heterosexual spaces. Since 2007 I have participated in more than 15 international feminists, academic, activist and community conferences. I have disseminated my images through different networks at academic institutions and conferences where I either get invited or submit abstracts and always propose to do poster presentations. During the summer of 2008, I attended the Sexuality Institute at San Francisco State University where I presented my visuals to a group of MA and PhD students from various universities in the US and abroad. I still keep in touch with most students that I networked with, and we continue to exchange educational information in the field of sexuality.

The recent conferences I attended include the 2008 Association of Women in Development (AWID) in Cape Town, where I used radical and informal performance to highlight the issues I explore in the Massa and Mina(h) series. With that I wanted the viewers to think about the racial, gender, and class dynamics of domestic work as it still persists today. In February 2009 I presented a poster paper titled Sikhona We Exist at Lesbian Lives XVI, themed Lesbian Art held at the University College of Dublin, Womens Centre in Dublin, Ireland. At most conferences that I present, I am usually only one of a handful of black women present. I also notice that my work is the only one that deals with black female sexuality and lesbianism from an insider point of view.

End February till March 2009, I was an Artist-in-Residence at the


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for 2 weeks. During this time, I gave educational talks to under graduate students in Women and Gender Studies. I networked with artists like Bill Viola and professors who are experts in film, art, women and gender studies. I also had a major artists talk at the Broad Institute where I spoke about the on-going struggles of black lesbians in South Africa, highlighting my construction of our visual history. Additionally, I conducted a two day community photography workshop, with 10 student participants from various faculties. I also collaborated with Professor Graham Ramsay, also a photographer who captured some of the images in the Massa & Mina(h) series. I also engaged in art critique with graduate students who were doing Masters of Science in Visual Arts. Being at MIT was the most incredible experience and what I really found useful about their program is how they combined art with science. Since I believe art is not one dimensional, I was happy to see that it was not confined to a discipline on its own. My own combination of art and activism works toward this end.


I participate in many solo and group exhibitions, within South Africa and abroad. Most of the shows that I participate in I am invited to as the curators believe that the work will have an impact in their audiences. The most recent shows that I have participated in showcased Faces & Phases. On June 11, 2009 the Documentary Media Now, Ryerson University MFA Graduate Festival was held at the Lennox Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto. Two-dimensional presentations of black and white photographs were displayed, which included the button series,


as way of conveying resistance and political messages using this medium. Another show is the 2009 Rebelle: Feminist Arts 1969-2009 held at the Museum of Modern Art in Arnhem, Netherlands. In early 2008, the work was included in a show called Make Art/ Stop AIDS at Fowler Museum at UCLA. In 2008 I also had an opportunity to feature the image ID Crisis (2003) in the exhibition Black Womanhood at Hood Museum, Hanover, New Hampshire. The show traveled to other US venues and ended April 2009 at San Diego Museum. In September the Being series was solo exhibited at Arte Decase Gallery in Milan, Italy. The portraits captured during Fall 2008 were included in the 2008/9 Summer show at Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town. The exhibited work gave an opportunity to the photo experience participants to visit the gallery for the first time to see themselves in the exhibition.


I have contributed my photographs to many academic and activist publications, art magazines, books, and feminist journals. Often, I am approached by writers, scholars and researchers who request for interviews, and with each contribution I make I always ask for copies to preserve in my personal archive. I also use that opportunity for reference purposes. In case there is any transactions involve or contribution made by writers, I extend a portion of those finances to those women in my community who need to further their education at public schools. For some funds raised in 2007/8, I donated to Miss Lesbian contest held in November 2008 at Mavis Hall, White City in Soweto. In December, I started and


funded a lesbian soccer team in Umlazi township. The community resides in one of the most marginalized and under-resourced areas in the South of Durban. The team is solely financed with moneys made either at artist talks or at residences. The team is in the process of registering to participate in the 2010 Cologne Gay Games. My sister and my mothertwo traditional, heterosexual Zulu womencontribute to caring for, nurturing, and guiding these women.

Some of my photographs are also included in 2009 Winter issue of Exposure photo journal edited by Carla Williams. In the journal is a published conversation I had with Clarissa Sligh, a US based feminist artist. I also have work featured in the 2006 To Have and To Hold: The Making of the Same Sex marriage in South Africa, edited by Anthony Manion and Melanie Judge. In 2005: Tommy Boys, Lesbian Men and Ancestral Wives edited by Ruth Morgan and Saskia Wieringa. The book documented female same sex practices in Africa. Other conversations and interviews are included in journals to numerous to mention.

Visual literacy classes

I have already mentioned my non-funded community Photo XP projects in which I train women from the townships and rural areas basic photographic, documentary, and research skills. The latest 2008 session was held in Khayelitsha and Gugulethu townships of Cape Town. The participants got opportunity to explore different field trip at galleries, closed meetings like Federation of Gay Games annual meeting, and the AWID conference. I also took them on educational


tours where they visited LGBT organizations to learn about the functions of each organization. They took photographs and participated in protest and marches. The participants involved later become faces of my portraits. The purpose for the project is to share knowledge and also to teach women to document their own lives. The course is offered for free and it is my own strategy of contributing some skill to the community that supports my initiatives as well. For those who are not interested in photography I refer them to other organizations who offer different empowerment projects. Their involvement in my work has helped many to gain self-esteem and have access to other opportunities internship programs in the private and public sector.

Archives In 2007 I contributed some work to the Lesbian Herstory Archive (LHA) in New York. Most of my early and recent photographs are temporary housed at the Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action previously known as GALA in South Africa. In 2006 I was interviewed by Marian Bakker, a lesbian photographer and archivist of the LGBT archive (IHLA) in Amsterdam.

Reflections: Dilemmas and Complexities Reflection about ones work is always necessary, especially when the work is dealing with the struggles and joys of real human beings. I must therefore speak honestly about the complexity of being both an insider and an outsider to this community. While my own past is rooted in growing up in poverty and struggling to live life as a black lesbian in a country that has transitioned from a violent anti-apartheid struggle to a


democracy within my adult life. I have also entered a space of privilege in the past few years. This privilege comes from being an activist, artist, and documentarian that allows me to access knowledge and spaces in academic classrooms, at conferences, exhibitions, and meetings all over the world. While I have struggled for our collective rights and freedoms as an activist, and while I witness and reveal the struggles and poverty of my black lesbian community through visuals, I am at the same time becoming alienated from my community because they cannot yet access what I have been able to access. Thus, the relationship between activist, researcher, and artist becomes complicated by my outsider status. This outsider status also complicates the relationship between consent and ownership of the images. I have to inform my participants where their images are being shown and then get permission to show those photographs. The question is then of who owns the images? If verbal or written consent is given to me, I am still in the ethical bind of wondering if I need a release form from the participant every time an image becomes part of an exhibition. This is not only time consuming on my part, but often difficult since the commodified art world does not have much patience for delays and democratic and collective decision making. I also wonder who owns the images of a woman who has participated in my photographs but has since passed away. Does that photograph go to the family album? As an insider though, I face the intimate and emotional involvement I have with my participants as I have known them and worked along side of them for years. Listening to testimonies of hate crimes and witnessing the physical and emotional scars of my people invokes deep pain inside my heart. I reflect on this pain in my blood series (not shown in this paper) as I try to articulate and deal also with the loss of friends and


comrades to disease and other tragedies. When a woman dies, I cannot simply be a researcher, or artist, I become once again an activist, a participant in the life dramas of my community. When couple Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Masooa were murdered in 2007, my friend and I participated by negotiating with the families of both women to have a joint funeral. Both families were overwhelmed at that time and did not know how to handle the tense situation of losing their lesbian daughters. I could not simply distance myself. As an activist I also have to capture the truth about HIV/AIDS, lesbophobic rapes and murders order to inform service providers and to come up with interventionist strategies. But as a friend, as a lover, as a comrade with and to these women, I also have to cry and mourn like every one else. Some times I feel the numbness inside of me as another story of rape infects me. This insider status also comes with the fear of being the next hate crimes statistic, especially because I am known publicly. Just as there is an issue with the safety of my participants when their faces are recognized in my photos, so there is an issue of safety for me. I too get scarred by fear.


Although the journey of my visual activism has been tough and has had many challenges, I believe that as a community, we have worked hard to create positive and socially significant images of black lesbians. I also believe that we have made significant movement toward claiming visibility for ourselves. It has been my main mission to ensure that those who come after us have eyes to see the beautiful black marks of our existence and resistance through these historic moments in our countrys transition to


democracy. bell hooks once said that I must be willing to tell what Ive seen. I must bear witness. I must transgress. (hooks, 1995: 134) Indeed we have transgressed through many odds using visual activism. The issues illuminated through my visual narratives have created dialogues. Many individuals have been informed and educated, some entertained, as we continue to share black lesbian cultures. End notes

It should be noted that this paper is written from a lesbian (feminist/activist) perspective. To be sensitive and considerate I have to be aware of fluidity of our gender and sexuality, by noting that it might happen that as I write, some of my participants who are/ informed my study might have transitioned (from female/lesbian identity to male/transmen) or other genders and sexualities. My work within an intersectionality framework while understanding all aspects of human identity and interaction as constructed within social and historical contexts and infested with power relations.

Some prominent gay research and literature to emerge at the time was Glen Retief, Policing the Perverts: an exploratory investigation of the nature and social impact of police action toward gay and bisexual men in South Africa, Institute of Criminology, University of Cape Town, 1993; Aubrey Theron and Christiaan Bezuidenhout, AntiGay Hate Crimes: Need for Police Intervention to Curb Violence Committed Against Gays, Paper presented to the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, Seminar 2, 1995; Mark Gevisser and Edward Cameron (eds.), Defiant Desires: Gay and Lesbian Lives in South Africa, Johannesburg: Raven Press, 1994; Bart Luirink, Moffies Gay Life in South Africa, Cape Town: Ink, 1998; Donald L. Donham, Freeing South Africa: The Modernization of Male-Male Sexuality in Soweto, Cultural Anthropology 13 (1) 1998, pp. 3-21; Graeme Reid and Theresa Dirsuweit, Understanding Systemic Violence; Homophobic Attacks in Johannesburg and Its Surroundings, (2000). Paper accessed at the Gay and Lesbian Archives, Johannesburg, South Africa, September 2009.

Morgan R. and Wieringa S., Tommy Boys, Lesbian Men and Ancestral Wives. Jacana Publishers, Johannesburg. 2005.

Schuhmann, Antje. Battling Hate Crimes Against Black Lesbians in the rainbow nation. Discussing the limitations of a US American concept and exploring the political horizon beyond law reform, State Accountability for Homophobic Violence. POWA. 2008, p.38.

For further reading, please see Glen S. Elder, The South African Body Politic: Exploring the spatial links between racism and compulsory heterosexuality (1998) Pp. 153-164. Or


Neidhardt S., Race Matters in HIV/AIDS, in Womens Global Reproduction Rights Network for Reproductive Rights HIV/AIDS and Womens RSHR, 2006.

Lapinsky Sheila and Jara Mazibuko, Forging a representative gay liberation movement in South Africa, Development Update, 2 (2) 1998.

Donham, Donald L., Freeing South Africa: The Modernization of Male-Male Sexuality in Soweto, Cultural Anthropology 13 (1) 1998, pp. 3-21.

Author in private conversation with Neidhardt, a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at York University, Toronto, Canada. Neidhardts dissertation research and activist work focuses on the politics of racialized and gendered sexualities in postApartheid South Africa.

Cock Jacklyn, Engendering Gay and Lesbian Rights: The Equality Clause in the South African Constitution, Womens Studies International Forum 26 (1) 2002, p. 39.

Marais Hein, South Africa, Limits to Change: The Political Economy of Transition, New York: Zed Press, 2001, 175-179.

Shefer Tamara and Potgieter Cheryl, Sexualities, in The Gender of Psychology, edited by Shefer, Boonzaeir, and Kiguwa, Cape Town: UCT Press, 2006, p. 104.



In A Township Tale, is a documentation of over 50 stories related by black lesbian women who are survivors of hate crimes. They are living in and around Johannesburg townships and have experienced verbal, physical, and/or sexual violence because they are lesbian and because they present in a gendered way that does not conform to the heterosexual and feminized version of what a real African woman should look and act like. Some of the testimonies of hate crimes are available on the Behind the Mask website: under the title Zaneles Journeys.

Muholi Zanele, Thinking through lesbian rape, Agenda 63. 2004 Muholi Zanele, Being Mum. 2006-2008 Both Busi Sigasas poems are published on her blog: Audre, Lorde. The Black Unicorn. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1978.





All figures included were accessed at the Michael Stevenson gallery website: online access on 13/06/09


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