The team of #blackdragmagic pose for a group shot at the taxi rank in site C Khayelitsha. This is done as an act of activism to reclaim the township and to stand up against the overwhelming climate of discrimination members of the LGBTQI+ community face in the township. With this portrait the group intends to send a clear message that public and community spaces need to be safe spaces for members of the LGBTQI+ community. Aug. 4, 2019.
Liyana Arianna Madikizela, who graduated from high school last year, is a drag artist from Kayamandi, a township outside the university town of Stellenbosch. Madikizela wanted her portrait to challenge traditional gender roles. “I have decided to be myself. I am a gender non-conforming body and I want to be a role model to the future generations of queers to come. I want to become the role model I never saw in the streets of Kayamandi. Living in a township has taught me to be strong and strive. I have dealt with the stigma and hate, and now am stronger. ” Aug. 4, 2019.
Mandisi Dolle Phika, from Paarl, chose to create her portrait in front of a church in Khayelitsha. “The church is often used as an institution to promote anti-queerness; so I chose the church as a way of reclaiming our sacred spaces and to give visual meaning to the God we believe loves us the way we are. I believe that a colourful God exist, one that appreciates and celebrates diversity in all its manifestations.” Aug. 4, 2019.
Belinda Qaqamba Kafassie (left), Mandisi Dolle Phika (middle) and Mthulic Vee Vuma (right) in Khayelitsha dressed in traditional female Xhosa garments in an act to frame their identity with their culture. “We can’t separate our queerness from our Xhosa heritage and therefore we use it to enforce our identity. To erase a significant part of someone’s identity is to invalidate their full existence. This is problematic because it somehow gives muscle to the erroneous idea of homosexuality being perceived as ‘unAfrican,’” the group explains. Aug. 4, 2019.
Mthulic Vee Vuma (Thuli), a trans woman from Lingelihle township in Malmesbury, is pictured in front of a shack in Khayelitsha dressed in traditional female Xhosa clothing. This is done to challenge binary thinking that strongly differentiates between masculine and feminine traditional clothing. “Here we use our own culture to frame our identity, even though this contests the societal norms and gendered dress codes that are set in our culture. We frame our identity by tying together our stories of subjectivity and culture,” Vuma says. Her family initially struggled to accept her as a trans woman, believing it was a curse, but she says they now give her total support. Aug. 4, 2019.
Shakira Mabika, who identifies as a trans woman, emigrated to South Africa from Zimbabwe, where former president Robert Mugabe, “has referred to people like me as ‘pigs’ and un-African.” She chose to be photographed by dilapidated shacks where pigs were kept behind a fence. “I moved to Cape Town, South Africa in search of a space where I could live my truth,” she says. After that move in 2013, she has faced transphobia and xenophobia. Aug. 4, 2019.
Belinda Qaqamba Kafassie, a drag artist and activist from Elands Bay, poses at the shisanyama in Khayelitsha, a community space where women cook and sell meat. Kafassie started drag as an escape from the oppression they felt at Stellenbosch University for being “black, Xhosa, poor, queer and effeminate.” Instead of conforming to the westernised standards of drag, Kafassie uses their unique style to elevate and celebrate African drag as an art that tells stories about Africans in Africa, the African way. Aug. 4, 2019.
Mandisi Dolle Phika, from Paarl, poses in a section of the tshisanyama in Khayelitsha. “I have faced homophobia since Primary School. The word ‘mofffie’ was often used to humiliate and break me. It is this derogatory term which was used as a weapon to shut me out. I started referring to myself as a ‘moffie’ so that the word would not hurt me. I used the word to empower myself. Whenever I was referred to as a ‘moffie’, I would not be hurt. The word lost its power to dismantle and demean me.” Aug. 4, 2019.
Liyana Arianna Madikizela, a drag artist from the township of Kayamandi, poses at a seating area at the tshisanyama, a community space where women cook and sell meat. She is wearing a multi-coloured beaded headpiece and holding a beaded stick, items traditionally worn by Xhosa brides during wedding ceremonies. This was an intentional choice to reclaim her culture. “There are spaces where we are tolerated, but what we really need is spaces where we can really be. Spaces that are affirming and enabling.” Aug. 4, 2019.
Dear Shaded Viewers,
The new exhibition opening at Bonne Espérance Gallery is a young woman artist from Cape Town, Lee-Ann Olwage. She was born in 1986 in Durban and is a visual storyteller. Her work is about identity, collaboration and celebration. She aims to create a space where people she collaborates with can play an active part in the creation of images they feel tells their stories in a way that is affirming and celebratory.
Lee-Ann doesn’t just take pictures of people, she asks them to co-create the images with her. Bonne Espérance Gallery is showing three of her series —
The Dance: When kids in the Cape Flats township of Cape Town, against all odds, graduate from high school which allows them to attend the matric dance (South Africa’s version of the senior prom) the entire neighbourhood celebrates.
#blackdragmagic: Lee-Ann and drag activist Belinda Qaqamba Kafassie invited Black drag queens to co-create images which tell their stories, which are often stories of exclusion and harassment or violence, and the result is a celebration.
The Right to Play: Girls in Africa are often taken out of school very early to work or marry and Lee-Ann created the sweetest images of what the world would be like if schoolgirls were allowed to just be girls.
Bonne Espérance Gallery
3 Notre Dame de Bonne Nouvelle