2015 May 6: Snow Black and the Huntsman – Musings on the work of Zanele Muholi

by Liona Nyariri

 Zanele Muholi: Isibonelo/Evidence
Brooklyn Museum, New York
1 May – 1 November 2015

I’m standing on the gallery floor at the Brooklyn Museum, looking down into a transparent glass coffin that lies at my feet. Inside the coffin sits a portrait of Zanele Muholi resting on a bed of white cotton. A vibrant bright assemblage of flowers lies on top of the coffin – it reminds me of a scene from Snow White, the Brothers Grimm fairytale story about a Princess whose beauty makes her wicked stepmother want her dead.

Snow White with hair dark as ebony, skin white as snow and lips red as blood. Her wicked stepmother, the Queen, looks into a magical mirror everyday and asks the question: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who in this realm is the fairest of all?”
And each time the mirror responds, “You, my Queen, are the fairest of all.”[1]

Things continue this way and the evil Queen remains content, until one day, when Snow White has ripened to puberty. The Queen looks into her mirror and asks once more: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who in this realm is the fairest of all?”
This time the mirror responds, “You, my queen, may have beauty quite rare, but Snow White is a thousand times more fair.”

Angered and enraged, the Queen devises a plan to get rid of Snow White and enlists the help of a Huntsman. She tells the Huntsman to take Snow White into the forest to kill her. As proof, she asks the Huntsman to cut out Snow White’s heart and bring it back to her. The Huntsman takes Snow White into the woods, but is so moved by her beauty and does not kill her. Instead, he lets her go. The stepmother discovers what the Huntsman has done and plots to kill Snow White herself.

Disguised as a harmless well-meaning old woman, bearing a poisoned apple – the Queen enters the forest and offers the fruit to an unsuspecting Snow White. Snow White takes a bite of the poisoned apple and falls to the ground – not quite dead, but almost. Her body is placed in a glass coffin for all to see. Then one day a handsome Prince stumbles upon her coffin and falls in love with Snow White. He opens the coffin and kisses her lips. With this kiss, Snow White is brought back to life. Her and the Prince get married and live happily ever after.


2015 April 29 Glass coffin_1670


I look into Muholi’s coffin and think about the kiss of life that will bring back the dead, the sorrowful, the ghosts that haunt – trapped on earth as fading lights waiting for their murderers to be called to judgment.
What bold, beautiful, dickstrapping, butch bearing, pussy lusting, woman to woman loving, haughty silver tongued swagging Prince/ss, will deliver the elixir of life; the warm breath of lips on lips and the reverberation of pulse, heartbeat?

The living and the dead have come together under one roof in Muholi’s exhibition, Isibonelo/Evidence and in this marks the twofold, 1+1=2, it takes two, two sides and then the truth, two people and two women, two codes, too assimilated and to be different, to equality, towards tolerance. Muholi presents the names of all the LGBTQI people who have been murdered in South Africa in the form of a graph. Here she gives a detailed description of who they are and how they were killed and it shows what happened to their murderers. Most of their murderers where not convicted or received short jail time. Each year the number of murdered LGBTQI people increases and this is shown on the graph.


Hate crime timelines on the walls of Brooklyn Museum

Hate crime timelines on the walls of Brooklyn Museum. Photos by Terra Dick (2015)

These beauties were killed because of who they were and how they expressed themselves and challenged “normal” beauty and sexuality. The beauty that threatened others and the beauty for which the Huntsman was sent to kill. Muholi calls for us – the viewers to bear witness, to acknowledge, to know, to not turn away, to be confronted by these ghosts. Ghosts that now live through and in an archive. An archive that documents their struggles, their pains, joys, humanity.

This archive was created out of necessity, a necessity with the urgency to maintain life. In Jacques Derrida’s piece, Archive Fever, A Freudian Impression, he describes the need and urgency to archive as being symptomatic of the death drive.[2]

For Derrida, a key element in the archive is its ability to give over into the care, the custody of another. It is like a passing down of a precious object, a precious memory, a family heirloom. The passing down of the archive into the arms of another – a woman, a queer, a lesbian, a transgendered person – “assures the possibility of memorization, of repetition, of reproduction, or of reimpression.”[3]

These needs conflated with urgency create an anxious compulsion, a panic, a fear of amnesia – forgetting, disappearing, non-existence. The archive is created out of the haunting of the death drive, the fear of being chased, raped, stoned and killed. The death drive is about an internal self-destruction, but Muholi’s archive, our archive, our queer archive, is being chased by the Huntsman. An external force sent to cut out its heart, our hearts, heartbeat, pulse. Our archive is being chased constantly.

The poet, Sindiwe Magona, writes in her poem, Please, Take Photographs!:

Go to the nearest or cheapest electronic goods store
And there, buy cameras by the score.
Hurry! Go! Go! Go!
Then go home; gather your family and
Take photographs of them all
Especially the children; especially, the young,
Hurry! Take photos of them all
Before it is too late…

…Please hurry! Take photographs of all the children, now!
Take photos, for tomorrow they will be gone.
Take photos! Take photos of the children…
Children who will not see thirty.
Children who will never…grow…old.[4]

There is a sense of urgency, panic, hurriedness, running through the forest as the Huntsman chases us – Run, run, run! And so Muholi photographs with the urgency to stay alive, to stay intact, to not die, to not turn into a ghost, to exist amongst the living.

The living, oh how they live! How they celebrate and have joy and love. My gaze shifted from the coffin and towards a wedding video of Ayanda and Nhlanhla Moremi. The footage revealed a happy couple as they took those sacred vowels and prepared to live their fairytale. There was dancing and singing, laughter, gratitude, tears of joy/sadness.

Her, adorned in a dress that was peach on the bust with white lace over it and a white bell shaped skirt fit for a Princess/Prince. The high femme with her carefully applied makeup, beautiful. Finished off with a pearl necklace and pearls and diamante shaped flowers in her interracially braided hair. Them, they, he, her looking dapper in a fitted grey suite with a black collar. Crisp white shirt complete with a tie. Her Prince. The celebration continued and went through some ceremonial and traditional rituals, clothes/costume changes, from western wedding wear to traditional Zulu wear. The second 2fold – assimilation and difference, to equality, towards tolerance.

The Prince has come to save Snow White and give her the kiss of life. As she wakes up, it is love at first sight. Snow White and the Prince get married and live happily ever after. He and she live happily every after. They and them live happily ever after. Her and she, he and him live happily – ever – after?
The proud mother says in her speech to the happy couple and the happy crowd, “my son is not a lesbian…He is my son…”
Just as I thought the ghosts, my haunting had settled down, a cold creep, a shudder surfaces. The urgency regurgitates, this time confused by societies demands. Wanting to fit in, to belong, to survive, yet wanting to be different.

In his essay, Zanele Muholi Elements of Survival, Raél Jero Salley says that in Muholi’s work there is a “twin impulse of negotiation: a desire for assimilation into mainstream society and internal diversification within LGBTI communities…there is a conflicting relationship.”[5]

This conflict leads me to ask the following question – where does transformation and acceptance happen?
By the mother calling her child “he/son”; does transformation happen in the word, the signifier?
Does the mother expand the meaning of what “he/son” means, allowing for a more diversified gender definition in the words “he/son.” Or, does transformation happen not in the word, but in the thing that the word refers to?
In other words, must the mother’s child become the word as it is socially understood and accepted?
Must they become “he/son, her son?”
Does the Huntsman hunt us, because we are so different from him, or does he hunt us, because we look like him?
We challenge his existence and who he is and so he projects his own self-hating psych onto us – we are the thing he hates, we are the thing the evil Queen hates.

The urgency to normalize, assimilate, the urgency to not be killed – So run Snow White, Snow Black, so Black – so black and blue from the bruises, inside and outside her black body.

The black body always seems to be running throughout the globe. Running from accusation and being chased by difference with injustices that mark a great sense of indifference. From South Africa to Brooklyn, New York, USA. Muholi brings this to our attention by installing police barricades in the room where the Faces and Phases portrait series is hung. The cold steel barricades are placed lengthwise in the room, dividing it into two. The USA is marked by strong violence or police brutality towards black bodies.
We can think of Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson, Miriam Carey, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray and so many more black people who have been killed by the police as well Transgendered people who are killed – Hunted and killed, to be different, too assimilated, too much – policing, policy making.

The barricades made the room seem smaller, congested, tight – #Icantbreath.

“I can’t breath!” Screamed Eric Garner as he was being choked to death by the police officer. I can’t breath, I’m so tired of running – I’m out of breath from being chased.
This phrase, “I can’t breath,” has become a poignant phrase for the Black Lives Matter movement. It describes a state of crises and state of emergency as black bodies continue to die and be killed for being who they are. For showing their, our beauty to the world.

Metaphorically, the barricades brought up all these issues and spoke to what they intended to, but visually, they felt overstated. The conversation of black bodies dying on a global scale was/is already embedded in Muholi’s work and the conversation would have been had without the barricades. The barricades cut the space and disrupted/distracted the space and I could not fully enjoy viewing the portraits from Faces and Phases in their entirety.

Nevertheless – Portraits on a wall, like mirrors on a wall – “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the finest of them all?”
Moreover, as I walked past them, each one of them replied, “I am! I am! I am!”
With confidence, irresistibility, sexiness – defiant. As if looking into the eyes of the Huntsman and saying, “You will see me for what I am, and what I am before anything else, is a person – a human being.”



Photo file from The Photographers Gallery, London. (2015) by Zanele Muholi


[1] Jack Zipes, trans., The Complete Fairy Tales Of The Brothers Grimm (New York: Bantam Books, 1987), 181-188

[2] The death drive, aggression drive or destruction drive as conceived by Sigmund Freud in his book, Beyond The Pleasure Principle. The death drive is in constant antagonism between Eros (the sexual desire that is linked to creation of life, productivity and construction) and Thanatos (death, destruction). In Freudian terms it explains the reason why human beings return to trauma and the need to return to quiescence.

[3] Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever, A Freudian Impression (Chicago, USA: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 11.

[4] Zanele Muholi, Faces + Phases 2006 -14 (South Africa: Steidl and The Water Collection, 2014), 5-6

[5] Raél Jero Salley, “Zanele Muholi Elements of Survival,” African Arts, Gender and South African Art 45 (2012): 4, accessed May 3, 2015, doi:10.1162/AFAR_a_00028


About Liona

Liona Nyariri is a Zimbabwean born visual artist. She completed her BA Fine Arts at the University of Cape Town in 2013. She is currently completing an MFA in Fine Arts at Parsons The New School in New York. At the core of her practice is a deep interest into notions of history, construction, and narrative.
Through her formal investigations of materiality, she is interested in the becoming of objects that carry certain weight or baggage/histories.
Through the abstraction of these objects, how do they begin to perform as things onto which ideas are projected onto – how do they create meaning and how do they implicate the viewer?
These are the questions that she contemplates and is interested in investigating.      


Nominated for the Tierney Fellowship, 2013
Selected as a top 100 finalist for the Sasol New Signatures Competition, 2013
Winner of the ABSA Art & Life Competition, 2012


Beyond The Obvious – 25 East Gallery,Parsons The New School, New York 2015
Heritage: Constructions and Abstractions – Young Blood Gallery, Cape Town, 2013
Greatest Hits: If The Walls Could Talk – AVA Gallery, Cape Town, 2013
Speke Photographic Show – Circa Gallery, Johannesburg, 2012
Cape Town Month Of Photography (MOP5) – The Castle, Cape Town 2012
Mistakes, Cape Town, 2012
The Women’s Show – Strand Towers, Cape Town, 2012



#lookatmydickybird – Culture Urban + Contemporary Gallery, Woodstock Exchange, Cape Town 2013

Beyond The Obvious – 25 East Gallery, Parsons The New School, New York 2015



Related links


Review: Zanele Muholi, a Visual Activist, Presents ‘Isibonelo/Evidence’




2015 May 9: A Review of Isibonelo/Evidence I




“God is a lesbian”: DISmiss presents Zanele Muholi




Zanele Muholi’s Heartbreaking Photographs at the Brooklyn Museum Take Stand Against Gay Bashing




Outlook by Andrea K. Scott




Photography: Zanele Muholi shoots down prejudice
by Cristina Ruiz




Spotlight on Queer Africa: Kehinde Bademosi and Zanele Muholi




On-Demand Video:  PEN World Voices – Queer Futures




Converstion: “States of Visual Activism”




Posted in Another Approach Is Possible, Archived memories, Creating awareness, Expression, Power of the Voice, South Africa, We Are You, We Care, We Still Can with/out Resources, Writing is a Right | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2015 May 5: My journey so far in life

by Nosipo Solundwana

My name is Nosipo Gloria Solundwana, also known as SPHOLA. I am a 27-year-old ‘butch’ lesbian living on the East-Rand, in Katlehong. I live with my four siblings and I am the first born at home. I lost my mother in 2007 and my stepfather in 2009. My biological father is still alive but I don’t exist in his world. He abandoned my mother and me in 1988 when he found out that I was born as an intersex.

Featuring in Faces and Phases series, Nosipho 'Brown' Solundwana, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2007.

Featuring in Faces and Phases series, Nosipo ‘Brown’ Solundwana, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2007.


My mother struggled a lot with raising me all alone. It wasn’t easy for her, people laughed at her because she had an intersex child. I was called all sorts of names ‘isitabane (dyke), isichitho (curse)’. It really wasn’t easy for her because she was still young and confused. I was definitely blessed to have her as my mother because she could have just left or abandoned me at the hospital or somewhere dodgy, maybe even throw me inside sewage but she was strong enough to raise me.

She named me Nosipo because she believed I was her Gift. She told me that I was the second known child in South Africa who was born in that situation, went for an operation and survived. It was by grace, the operation was performed at Baragwanath Hospital. Doctors and nurses were celebrating at their success because the other operations were unsuccessful. I am truly grateful for the life she gave me.

Nosipo Solundwana, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2007. Photos by Zanele Muholi.

Nosipo Solundwana, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2007. Photos by Zanele Muholi.


How the funds were raised for me to be operated?
That’s were she met my stepfather in 1990. Because of the situation she was in my stepfather offered to help, thank God he was the answer to my mother’s prayer and I am honestly thankful to him.

Days, months and years passed by, life became extremely difficult for my mother. Things got bitter with her and my stepfather. She was beaten, yelled, abused both physically and emotionally each day of her life. I’d also get a kick and be thrown out of the house with my mother, until my mom’s friend asked to take me with her to the Eastern Cape in uMthatha.

You might wonder why my mother didn’t take me to her home? Things were tense back home and she lost her parents. Her brothers didn’t want anything to do with her because she had me, so they said ‘uzele isichitho’ (you gave birth to a curse). I stayed in uMthatha for about 3 to 4 years it was very difficult. I was abused and had to participate in both male and female chores. I was 9 years old when I had to walk a long distance to fetch water, carry a 20l bucket, then fetch livestock, then come back to prepare a meal. My mother would send me money and clothes but I wouldn’t wear any of them. I will never forget those years of hardship. I had to walk to school bare-footed in winter, in fact the whole seasons.

I came to visit my mother when I was about 11 years old, I remember the tears falling off my eyes telling her the situation I was living in and that I wanted to stay with her, because I was really suffering and abused. I felt as if my mother had sold me to slavery honestly I was angry with her. So I came back to live with her in Johannesburg. She never lived a happy life, the abuse and insults by my stepfather got really bad this time around, they had kids and I was always pushed aside.

Why didn’t she leave him? Apparently he was all she had. At the age of 17 I started taking drugs, not staying at home, and always crashing at friend’s houses. I never had a good relationship with my mother, we always fought and she would chase me out of house. I disclosed my sexuality to her and she got really angry and said to me “I didn’t conceive a lesbian mina” she chased me out of the house.

I met with Zanele Muholi at the age of 18, that’s were I started taking pictures with her and she encouraged me to finish my secondary level. She ask me what do I want to do when I finish school, I said, “I don’t know” because I was confused and had lost hope. I gave up my life and took drugs like nobody’s business, hanging out with bad guys, mugging people’s belongings, touched guns it was really a dangerous life that I had chosen. I survived all that thanks to the Lord.

I almost got arrested and my stepfather caught me right handed using drugs and promised to get me arrested if I didn’t quit. That’s were I got a wake-up call to clean up my act because I couldn’t bare the thought of being in jail.

Now all I want is to achieve my goals and dreams. I want to be a successful businesswoman who owns a pub. The first step to get there I need to find is’pani (job) then work on the budget. I believe in myself I am very enthusiastic in my abilities. All I need is a good start and I think I’ll need a mentor as well. I do have business skills. I am willing to move forward because I believe the hard-life I’ve been through gave me strength and positivity.

I am hoping that Inkanyiso can help me find myself and discover the true meaning of myself.


Related link


2015 May 14:  “I’m happy living my life the way I am




2015 April 16:  My story as a Zimbabwean Transvestite




2015 Jan.3: I dropped out of the closet many times




2013 Oct. 2: ‘I am a normal transgender woman’





Posted in A new visual history, Another Approach Is Possible, Archived memories, Creating awareness, Expression, Power of the Voice, South Africa, We Are You, We Care, We Still Can with/out Resources, Words, Work, Writing is a Right, Writing matters | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

2015 March 24: LGBTIQs of Kayamandi attended the book launch

by Nondi Vokwana

The group was invited to attend Faces and Phases (2006-14) book launch by Zanele Muholi held at the University of Cape Town, African Gender Institute on March 24, 2015. Thirteen group members  from the Silubala Safe Space, Kayamandi, Stellenbosch attended the launch and it was their first time to attend at such an event. Below are the views on the whole event from some members of the group.

2015 Mar.24 Audience_8819

Nondi Vokwana (participant in Faces and Phases also an educator and author) of this vox pop at the book launch on 24.03.2015 Photos by Lindeka Qampi

2015 Mar.24 Delegation _ F&P panelist_8840

Four generations of lesbians: L-R. Muholi, Funeka Soldaat, Yonela Nyumbeka and Zethu Matebeni (who moderated the session of the launch)














“It was pleasant for me to be part of a high profile event with interesting dialogues, I find it fascinating listening to homosexuals voicing their views on our sexuality all in all it was educational”
Khuliswa Mandindi

“To me the event was educational, encouraging and inspiring. One of the things I learned at the launch was when it was explained that you may see a butch lesbian and see a boyish looking girl, but if you look deep enough there is a story behind that good looking woman that looks like a “man”.
I think the reason it is called Faces + Phases is because lesbians go through a lot of painful and difficult things in life more than heterosexual people. I loved it when a woman from a homophobic African country said, “South Africans you are privileged because you can be united in one room and hold whatever event and still be safe, in my country all of us would be arrested or even killed.”
Andiswa Nongenzi

“It was amazing to see good positive inspiring women in one place where no one was judged for who they are. I do not get exposed to such events and I was blown away from the event and to hear about the horrible things that happen to us homosexuals. I could not believe it. It is hard to understand how this country can be referred to as free, when we are prosecuted by fellow human beings on daily basis, for being who we are. I believe such events should be held often.”

I am happy to have attended the event in Cape Town as it was my second one after the December launch in Durban. I was grateful that we could come as a group, because Kayamandi is often over looked or neglected from such events when they happen in the Western Cape, since we are situated in the Boland region. Most of the group members come from disadvantaged homes and are not exposed to such events. I agree with Bulelwa that such events should be held often and especially in our township. Many of our community members need to be exposed to this and also know that we homosexuals are not animals but people. Just like the next person, we are blessed with talent and hunger for success regardless of our home situations. I felt so proud on our way home when the group couldn’t stop saying how excited and happy they were to attend such an event.”
Nondi Vokwana

Thank you Faces + Phases for a great opportunity.


Related links



Posted in Black Lesbian Icons in South Africa, Black lesbian visibility, Freedom, Freedom of being, FreeGender, Gender Equality, Gender expression, Networking, Organizations, Our lives in the picture, Participants, Participation, Reality, Reason, Recognition, recognized, South African politics, South African struggle, Stories, Visions, Visual activism, Visual activism is a language, Visual Activist, Visual Activist in the classroom, Visual democracy, Visual diaries | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2015 April 20: My best experience in New York

by Terra Dick

On Friday, April 17 I received an SMS from Zanele Muholi that I must call Baba Zenzi and Mam’ Magesh Zungu about our New York trip the following day. I called them and arranged to meet at OR Tambo International airport at the KFC.

The sms and call happened while I was packing my stuff for the trip and doing some writing. Then a call came in from my girlfriend, we chatted and told each other how much we missed each other. After that call ended, I contacted the cab driver that was going to pick me up the next morning to take me to the airport. However the cab driver already knew that he had to pick me up so that I can be early at the airport because Lerato Dumse had already called him. I also had to meet with Lerato’s mom, Bukelwa Dumse, because she was going to give me a camera so that I can document the trip with the Zungu’s.

The night before departure I wasn’t sleepy and stayed up till 2 in the morning. I was thinking about this greatest opportunity that I have, being able to go to New York City. I set my morning alarm for 5am till 6am because my transport was going to be there at 6:30am. Around about 3am Muholi called me to find out if everything was in order with the Zungu’s and if I had spoken with Lerato and her mom. After the call I went back to sleep.

I woke up at 6am, took a bath, and went to meet the cab driver outside. At the airport I met with Lerato’s mom and took the camera and then met the Zungu family and they were with friends. They hugged and were happy to see friends come to say goodbye before they travelled to New York. I took pictures and video clips because I was documenting the trip. After that we went to check in because our plane was leaving at 9:30 in the morning. We arrived two hours before and checked in, we found the plane already boarding. I did a short interview with both Baba Zungu and Mama Zungu asking them about how they felt going to New York for the first time.

They shared their feelings of excitement and being scared at the same time because everything was new to them. Our first stop was Dubai; we spent a long time on the plane, arriving in Dubai at 7:30 pm. When we arrived our next boarding plane was at 3am so we had to wait till the morning comes. While we were there Baba Zungu and Mam Magesh wanted to take a walk and buy something. I told them that South African money is just too little in Dubai; I wanted them to experience it for themselves and told them to go. When they returned they said, “Tjooo Terra our R200 here is only worth R50, we only managed to buy two cans of drink and sweets then that was the end of R200,” I laughed at them.

They fell asleep because they were tired, after being on a plane for a long time. I continued taking photos of them while they slept and went around Dubai airport taking more photos. I checked my phone and tried the free Wi-Fi but it was only 30 minutes long and it ended quickly, before I could do a lot on my phone, social networks and trying to tell my family that I’m in Dubai. We waited till 2am in the morning, when Emirates gates were opened for us to board.

One thing that bored me about traveling to New York was that every time as we were boarding they checked us over and over again. Even though we don’t have anything prohibited because they took our stuff such as spray, body lotions and everything that is 100g and above of liquid. We finally got to the plane and we were sitting in different sits. I was on my own sit, while the Zungu couple sat next to each other, anyway I liked that. We spent 13 more hours on the air before landing in New York. I heard Baba Zungu say, “tjoo this was the longest trip ever!” We had to pass through security to check our passports and if we didn’t bring anything to declare.

We finally passed and had to go and pick up their baggage, I had mine with me all the time. I didn’t stop documenting as well. We waited for Baba Muholi after all that process until she came to take us to Brooklyn where we are staying at the airbnb. She arrived, we took photos next to yellow New York cabs because there is no place that you can find yellow cabs in the world besides New York, so that identified that really we are in United State/ New York.

We took a cab to Brooklyn; on our way there I noticed that most of the houses are made of wood yes some with brick but not a lot. They have very few houses with Bugler doors, compared to South Africa and I wondered why. Where we are staying the building is like flats but inside its like a church. The flat is very beautiful like a Hotel but its someone’s house. Bab’ Muholi explained that in places such as New York they some residents rent out their homes to people who come and visit maybe for a month or few weeks so that they can earn from their property. Then during that time the homeowners stay with their friends or family houses or go on holiday.

2015 April 19 Terra MaGesh & Zungu @JFK _9909

Finally we reached our final destination and one of the first photos is the one below taken after we loaded our luggages in the cab. In the photo Terra is with MaGesh and Pastor Z. Zungu.




2015 April 19 MaGesh in a yellow cab_9911

On arrival in New York MaGesh was so excited to be in the yellow cab. Photos by Muholi (19.04.2015)


I was the first one to bath because I wanted Baba and Ma Zungu to take their time when they bathed. When they finished we went to the nearest shop that is around the corner to buy some things. Opposite were we are staying is the Brooklyn Museum where Muholi is going to exhibit her work. The funny thing was every thing looks so cheap like $1;20 however, the one dollar and couple of cents compared to South African rands is expensive. When we left the shop Ma said that I can go and buy myself ice cream because at the shop we thought the money we had was enough by looking at the prices according South Africa, we ended up having to give back the ice cream. So she saw an ice cream truck and she sent me to buy myself one. I went there with a dollar in my hand hahaha. Only to find out that the ice cream was 5 dollars so I had to explain to the guy that I am a South African so I didn’t know how much the ice cream was, and I don’t even understand the New York money, lucky me, they gave me the 5 dollar ice cream with one dollar and that was great.

Muholi was waiting for a student to do an interview with her and MaZungu started to cook. The food was excellent very nice, one day I wish to have a wife that can cook very well too. After the meal we all joined the interview with Baba Muholi. It was great and educational for me because I learned things. I was able to hear Ma Zungu’s story and a bit of VMCI church stories, how it started and how the community members treated Baba Zungu when the church started.

I went to bed and slept, so I could rest for the next day because Muholi had a class that she had to lecture at Bard College at 6:30 pm. I woke up in the morning around 7:30 am to charge my phone, and chat to my girlfriend. Outside the weather was cold and raining, so I had to take out warm clothes to wear.

We arrived at Bard College security/receptionist and waited for the person we were going to meet. When he arrived he took us to the dinning hall to eat after that we went to his office to check our emails while waiting for the class to start. When the class started I documented the event while Muholi was lecturing and talking about her work and what is happening In South Africa to our fellow friends that are lesbians. The talking was about the killings and the funerals that we have to attend because of hate crime and corrective rape, but not only limited to sad stuff, and Muholi even talked about marriage, swag, pride and beautiful photos that she took to represent the work. The students asked questions even when the class was over. Then we had to go to dinner afterwards, when we arrived at the hotel we where served well, and it was my birthday how can I forget that.


Previous link


2013 June 6:  Reviving the spirit of Thokozani


2013 April 7:  The game we played and lost



Related links


2015 March 14:  Navigating through London




2015 Feb. 23: My very own apartheid experience in Oslo




2014 Nov.17: Announcement – MoMA present two best South African artists




2014 Sept. 11: The New York experience that was




2014 June 20:  Spana my child




2014 June 20:  Difficult screenings




2014 April 5: ‘Sifela i Ayikho’ photos




2014 Mar. 13:  SA Black Lesbian invades San Francisco 




2013 Dec. 21: ‘A part of Me’ in Paris




2013 Oct. 7:  Art enthusiasts converged




2013 Oct. 4: Cramps were killing me




2013 Aug.9: For the love of sport activism




2013 July 31: Almost all about my first time abroad




2013 June 21: Yesterday’s Reality Check




2013 June 5: Lesego sharing the work of Inkanyiso at the LGBT conference in Salzburg, Austria




Posted in a black lesbian, A new visual history, Background, Beautiful people, Beauty, Before You, Being, Being conscientized, Being heard, Blessings, Creating awareness, Creative Writing, Women's power, Women; Voices; Writings; Education; Traditions; Struggles; Cultures, Womenonwomen, Words, Writing is a Right, Writing matters | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2015 May 14: “I’m happy living my life the way I am”


I’m Ziningi Praiseworth Ndovela, a 31year old born in Izingolweni (kwaXolo tribal) and grew up there until I obtained my Senior Certificate, then moved to Durban in Umlazi township.

I belong to the lesbian world, the life that some people hate and discriminate, while lesbians live it and love their lives. I was 11 years old when I started noticing that I’m different, I would look at girls and fantasize about being more than friends.

The portrait of Ziningi Ndovela by Charmain Carrol (2015/02/27).

The portrait of Ziningi Ndovela by Charmain Carrol (2015/02/27).

It made me curious about what kind of a person I am, I was so confused and started locking myself in my room to study, but my mind was far, thinking about who I am.

Most of the things happened in high school, when I was in Grade 11.
I asked my friends what they would do, if they found out that I’m dating other girls?
They just laughed at me because they knew I had a guy that I was dating. I wasn’t happy in that relationship because I knew where I belonged. When I dreamt I would dream about myself with another woman.
After a while I dated my church mate and we loved each other, while nobody knew.

I was afraid to let anyone know about my feelings, because I feared rejection in the family, friends and community. My mother suspected because I played football. She said, ‘I must stop doing boys’ things and stop wearing trousers, that was sad. I tried to do the way she liked me to, and realized I was supposed to live both lives, while that was not my intention.

In 2002, God blessed me with my lovable son, Thapelo. During pregnancy I thought of committing suicide. I couldn’t, and thought to myself, if I do, it would mean that I’m a coward who can’t face challenges in life. When my son was 2 years old I came out that I’m not into men, but women. I love my son and respect him a lot. We used to play to together, and I’m proudly lesbian, and love it when my son calls me mum.

As time went by I became sick, doctors couldn’t find a diagnosis. I visited traditional healers who said I have a calling. Although I had some visions, I wasn’t so sure about it. My mother understands all that, so I started the process of traditional healing. I have not completed the training as yet, but I’m capable of helping people.

I’m a Christian who attends a Zion church. I like that they don’t criticize me, they give me the same treatment like other people. I’m a secretary at church, and want to reach my goal. I’m working on doing my studies in Civil engineering.

Ziningi and friends in Umlazi township.

Ziningi and friends in Umlazi township.

I’m happy living my life the way I am.
To all lesbians, stay blessed and be proud of who you are. Don’t worry about people and what they say, as long as you happy, that is all that matters. We live once the other life is in heaven. Don’t even care who judges you because only God can judge us.

Thanks to Lerato Dumse and Charmain Carrol,  you guys gave me more strength.
Keep up with your good work and for your encouraging words.
I Salute you. Thank you!

Posted in 2002, Acceptance, Affirmation, Another Approach Is Possible, Another woman, Archived memories, Archiving Queer Her/Histories in SA, Articles, Articulation, As we are, Believe, Black lesbian mother speak out, Black Lesbian over 30, Blessings, Calling, Challenges, Committing suicide, Community, Criticism, Dating, Diagnosis, Documentation; Filming; Photography; Community, Documenting our own lives, Documenting realities of the townships, Dream, Dress code, Education, Expression, Family, Feelings, Football, Friends, God, Grade 11, Happy, Heaven, High school, Homosexuality, Human being, Intention, Intimate relationship, Laugh, Lesbianism, Life, Life story, Live, Living, Loved, Loving, Men's wear, Mother, Person, Pregnancy, Proud, Proudly lesbian, Rejection, Respect, Sad, Senior certificate, Son, Studies, traditional healers, Traditional healing, Trousers, Umlazi township, Visions, Woman, Ziningi Praiseworth Ndovela, Zion Church | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2015 April 28: New York diaries I – Lion King seen

Text by Thembela Terra Dick
Photos by Muholi

On Tuesday morning I woke up knowing that I will go to see the Lion King show at Times Square (TS). First I had to go with Bab’ Muholi to Brooklyn Museum for the installation shoot and an interview with Pastor Zungu and Pastor Brown at 11am.

We went to Brooklyn Museum at the 4th floor where Muholi’s exhibition titled Isibonelo/Evidence is currently on show. There wasn’t much work for me to do because I had already covered most of the installation; I was just waiting for the interview to start so that I can work. Then bab’ Muholi saw that there was a mistake on one of the wall writings, it was written that, Isibonelo/Evidence means “taking stock”.

20150428 ErrorOnTheWall_120528

I walked around reading some of the writing on the walls, while Pastor Zungu waited for Pastor Brown to come for the interview. When everyone had arrived, the interview started and it went well. It was a little bit challenging for me because I had to take angles of the interview with a camera lens that I’m not used to working with it.

We returned home just to relax a little before getting ready for the Lion King show. There was a problem with the toilet that morning. Magesh tried to fix it, when that didn’t work Muholi called the owner of the house to help fix the problem. We had to wait for the person who was going to fix the toilet, due to time we left because we where going to be late.

We took a train to Time Square, it was so beautiful, like I’m seeing it on TV, but it was a reality. I saw big buildings with big screens advertising everything that is available, including the Lion King show. There were many tourists coming from different countries and from South Africa. We were not the only South Africans there.

20150428 the zungus in time square_182036

Pastor Z Zungu and wife MaGesh at Time Square in New York…

Inside the theatre one wall has a big face of a Lion made with wood. They were selling Lion King t-shirts, mugs, tracksuit tops, and small blankets to name a few. Inside they didn’t allow anyone to take photos and videos, at first I was like (why?) but then I saw that they have to do that and understood. The show was like some thing I’ve never seen before. I only watched the Lion King, as cartoons when I was growing up, what I saw there was beautiful. The way they dressed as lions, flowers, and wow the stage it was something amazing. The person who came up with that idea is so brilliant and creative. I loved it so much, and its something I could tell everyone who hasn’t watched it, to go and watch it. Apart from Muholi, it was our first time watching the show. We took photos and a video before the show started.

I wished that it wouldn’t end the way I was enjoying it, but it ended and we had to go. Then Muholi surprised us by buying Lion King mugs for us, I was even more excited because now I have something to show from the show, it is so amazing. We took a lot of photos and we didn’t stop working as well because we were taking cutaways for a short documentary about New York and us. Another amazing thing was going backstage to meet Gugwana Dlamini (Rafika) in Lion King, and we took photos with her.

20150428 Muholi Thembela Zungu Magesh Gugwana_214659

On backstage with our South African star, Gugwana Dlamini (far right) who play Rafiki in Lion King (New York) with Muholi (left), Thembela Dick, Pastor Z. Zungu and MaGesh.


At Minskoff Theatre (pre Lion King) screening on the day of our outing with the Zungus… New York.

20150428 Traffic @Time Square_220239

After 11pm at Time Square it was like, day light people was all over the place and a lot of people. I continued took shoot and saw people wearing cartoon costumes. We walked around and ended up seeing KFC on our way I was happy cause I finally saw a KFC in America. Ma Magesh bought a bucket of KFC and we took it home with us.

We took a train back home and when we arrived the toilet was fixed as well as the door lock. So the day ended well and I was happy and everyone was happy, I took a bath because I’m on my period far, far, away from home (that sucks) and I had a chance to chat with my girlfriend before I went to bed.

So that was the end of 2015/04/28 for me…


The swagger, filmmaker and Faces and Phases participant Thembela ‘Terra’ Dick on subway Broadway exit.



Posted in Activism, Activists Act, Advocacy, Creative activist, creative artist, Creative Writing, Know Your SA Queer History, Knowledge, Longing, Look at me, Networking, Parents, Parents and Friends of LGBTI, Presentation, We Are You, We Care, We love each other, We love photographs, We Love Photography, We Still Can with/out Resources, We were (t)here, When Love is a Human Right, Women; Voices; Writings; Education; Traditions; Struggles; Cultures, Words, Writing is a Right, Writing matters, Zulu is a language, Zulu is a South African language, Zulu tradition, Zulu traditional ceremony | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2015 May 9: A Review of Isibonelo/Evidence I

by Adejoke Tugbiyele
Photos by Terra Dick

Zanele Muholi’s beautiful works are currently on view at the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.
It includes photographs of several dozen black and white portraits of lesbians and transgendered people in South Africa and beyond whose lives are challenged or endangered daily, simply for choosing to live openly and freely.

After years of sacrifice and dedication to telling the stories of South Africa’s lesbian and trans community, this important exhibition is a climax in Zanele’s bold attempt as an activist to enlighten us about how we see and talk about this serious issue of injustice in her native land.

As a lesbian who comes from Nigeria, Zanele’s work has inspired me greatly and continues to empower all who struggle for LGBTQI justice in various parts of Africa and beyond. The fact that South Africa’s government recognizes same sex love on paper yet cant protect its own queer citizens, also underscores the existence of sexism in the country.

2015 April 29 Ade & Muholi_1674

Muholi and Adejoke in conversation…


2015 April 29 Timeline on Isibonelo_1661

Art lover or museum visitor reading hate crime timeline on the wall at Brooklyn Museum


2015 April 29 Photo of the poster taken_1668

Zanele’s work seems to preach existence but also acceptance, where the faces in each portrait speak one unified voice to say – I am here!

In the exhibition, correctly titled “Isibonelo/Evidence,” a powerful wall stands high and painted black, covered with personal hand-written stories of women who have been raped, abused or somehow violated in South Africa.

Each moving tale is an enlightening and visible story we simply cannot ignore. Collectively, they allow us to absorb the magnitude of the problem and see just how disruptive and traumatized South African lesbian lives have become.

The exhibition is not simply a grand statement, but a call to action! I highly recommend that all in the New York area visit the exhibition before it closes. It will be on view through November 1, 2015.

2015 April 29 Christina Muholi Liesl_1682

L-R: Christina Mavuma, Muholi & Liesl Theron


2015 April 29 Fran Hlonipha Zungu MaGesh_1663

L-R: Fran E. White, Hlonipha Mokoena, Pastor Z. Zungu and MaGesh Zungu.


2015 April 29 T & Muholi_1671

Pastor Brown’s partner T. of Rivers of Water, New York attended Isibonelo/ Evidence was in attendance at the opening…


About the author

Adejoke Tugbiyele is an out, queer Nigerian artist currently living in the United States. While in Nigeria she came out onCNN International about her sexuality in January 2014, right after Nigeria signed the anti-gay bill into law. Her work speaks to human rights issues including women’s rights and also responds to spiritual or performative aspects of traditional Yoruba culture.
Tugbiyele’s work has been exhibited and screened at renowned institutions internationally including October Gallery – UK, Goodman Gallery – Cape Town, Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Art, New York, Centre for Contemporary Art, and the Goethe Institute, both Lagos, Nigeria; the Centre for Contemporary Art, Torun, Poland; and the United Nations Headquarters, New York, USA.
Tugbiyele’s work has also exhibited at international fairs such as Art Dubai 2014 (Dubai UAE), 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair 2014 (London) and the Joburg Art Fair 2013, (Johannesburg, South Africa).

After earning a BS in Architecture at New Jersey Institute of Technology, Tugbiyele went on to receive a Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She is the recipient of several awards, including a Fulbright grant to Nigeria from 2013-14. She has appeared as an artist and queer activist on Arise Entertainment 360, CNNInternational, received mention in The New York Times, and has been published in The Huffington Post,
The Feminist Wire and Metropolis M. Her work was recently published in a new historic document for journalists in Nigeria -The Guidebook to Reporting Gender and Sexuality, and she has appeared as a guest on Nigeria’s first-ever LGBT podcast called NoStrings.


Related links


“God is a lesbian”: DISmiss presents Zanele Muholi




Zanele Muholi’s Heartbreaking Photographs at the Brooklyn Museum Take Stand Against Gay Bashing




Outlook by Andrea K. Scott




Photography: Zanele Muholi shoots down prejudice
by Cristina Ruiz




Spotlight on Queer Africa: Kehinde Bademosi and Zanele Muholi




On-Demand Video:  PEN World Voices – Queer Futures



Converstion: “States of Visual Activism”






Posted in Committed, Community | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments