Visual activist launches new book in Cape Town

by: Simangele Mzizi

Photos by: Lerato Dumse

On 1 December 2018, visual activist and photographer Zanele Muholi, launched the long-awaited book Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness at the Zeitz Mocaa Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town.

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A departure from her renowned black and white portraits, Faces and Phases amongst various LGBTI photo projects including Brave Beauties, Being Series, Beulah, which sees Muholi commemorating and celebrating black lesbians, gay men, transgender individuals and gender-nonconforming individuals. In Somnyama Ngonyama, which translates to Hail the Dark Lioness, Muholi turns the lens on herself. She is boldly reclaiming blackness and offers a radical statement of identity and resistance.

In a conversation (also contained in the book) with curator, Renée Mussai, Muholi explains that Somnyama Ngonyama is not only about beautiful photographs; it’s also about bringing forward political statements.

“The series touches on beauty and relates to historical incidents, giving affirmation to those who doubt whenever they speak to themselves, whenever they look in the mirror, to say, ‘you are worthy, you count. Nobody has the right to undermine you because of your being, because of your race, because of your gender expression, because of your sexuality and because of all that you are.”

ee 0404 Kwanele _ Parktown _ 2016 1                                       Kwanele _ Parktown _ 2016 © Zanele Muholi

For example, one of the portraits contained in the book is called Kwanele – meaning “it is enough” in isiZulu. The image responds to Muholi’s experience of travelling through immigration at different airports where she is often racially profiled. In the image, she is draped in plastic. The activist explains during the conversation with Mussai that the plastic around her face is the same material that covers her suitcase during her travels: “The image speaks about the need for protection, as well as the sense of feeling exposed, stripped of dignity, and being continually scrutinised when passing through border control. It speaks to the painful inconvenience of being delayed by these experiences, humiliated, and unnecessarily exposed, as though you have committed a crime.”

The book is filled with other striking images in which Muholi confronts the politics of race and offers commentary on specific events in South Africa’s political history. In addition to the series of Muholi’s self-portraits, the book includes written contributions by 24 curators, poets, and authors who draw out the many layers of meaning and possible readings for the collection of images.

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Attendees at the event were treated to various performances including from one of the contributors of the book, Christie van Zyl. Commenting on the launch, van Zyl, who has worked with Muholi for several years said: “Muholi’s work is an affirmation to never allow circumstances to deter you from doing whatever you say you are here to do in the world. Even though all she was exposed to was being hated for her dark skin, today she is here to tell us that she is everything and we are everything along with her.”

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Speaking at the end of the book launch, Muholi reiterated that her practice as a visual activist looks at black resistance, existence as well as insistence. She used the opportunity to encourage LGBTQIA youths to reclaim spaces that they have been previously denied, to re-think what history is all about, to reclaim it for themselves and to strive to empower themselves. And most importantly, to use artistic tools such as cameras and writing as weapons to fight back. A strong advocate for education, Muholi also revealed that in 2019 there is an educational programme launch for LGBTQIA youths through proceeds from her work.

In another exciting development, Muholi mentioned that her long-time friend, supporter and activist, founder of Free Gender Funeka Soldaat, will be launching her book at Zeitz Mocaa: “Funeka has been an activist for decades through her organisation which fights gender violence in townships in Cape Town and her upcoming book is a wonderful and necessary contribution towards the country’s LGBTQIA community and I urge everyone to support this all-important work.”

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Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness has won Aperture Book Publisher of the Year at the 2018 Lucie Awards. The book can be purchased online here:

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by: Thobeka Bhengu

For the past three years, I have been annoyingly passing remarks and suggestions to my close friends about them tying the knot and inviting me. I had never attended a queer wedding before Deborah “Dee” and Laetitia Dlamini’s exquisite wedding.

Dee                                                                  In the picture (From left): Dee Dlamini & Laetitia Dlamini saying their vows. 08 Dec.2018. Kempton Park.

On Saturday December 8 2018 we witnessed a celebration of queer love at In2 Africa- Function/Wedding and Conference Venue in Kempton Park, Ekurhuleni, where Dee and Laetitia held a wedding celebration of love and a beautiful union. During the wedding we watched, chuckled and shared a tear as Dee and Laetitia demonstrated their love with family and friends.


I had no particular expectations when I became aware that we were to shoot a lesbian wedding. I actually looked forward to it. I have always been a sucker for love and commitment. Some things start to change as you get older, you start to think of the future, you think of commitment, family and the works. But for some this might not be the case, they might want to travel, see the world, meet new people and chase their dreams.

There’s an intrinsic shift in perspective, knowing yourself and your insecurities as you get older and you search for that one person you can return home to, so they can rub your back, massage your feet and make you feel at home after a long hectic day. We are all not so lucky to find love instantly but we continue meeting new people, it works out for a while until it no longer works and you’re caught in petty drama or sometimes you find that one person who makes you feel safe, does all the right things and you would not mind choosing them every day.


When we arrived at the wedding venue in the morning both brides were still getting ready for their special day. Laetitia was in a slight panic about delays when her wife to be was running a little bit late and she was also still to get ready, get into her perfect fitting gorgeous dress, do her simple yet elegant makeup and finally get a hairstylist in to finish off the look with a short, elegant and slightly curled bob cut. When she got into her dress, her relative walked in which saw a beautiful emotional moment for Laetitia. These moments were constant throughout the ceremony. Moments that made you see the true beauty of love. The kindness and unity that true love brings. The speakers of the day also shared love, wisdom and witty jokes.


There is something magical about seeing people who love each other, from the long gazes, goofy smiles and the words that suggest they are in it for the long haul.  I have hardly celebrated queer unions, so for me nothing felt and seemed more natural than Dee and Laetitia’s union. It was the natural order of things, the way it should be; and the kind of wedding I would have liked to see when I was younger.


It puzzles me that people frown upon queer love, making it seem taboo and unnatural to those who are anti-homosexuals and anti-queerness+. Saturday was a magical day and we were pleased to support, witness and document one of our own Faces and Phases participant Dee Dlamini getting married to her beautiful wife. We congratulate you Dee and Laetitia Dlamini, may you keep choosing each other every day, even when some days may not be so peachy. May you find partners for life in each other and be patient with one another. We wish you all the best!


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2018 Nov. 15: Yaya win Socialite of the Year at Feather Awards 10

by Mantis ‘Quing’ Mamabolo
Photos by Lerato Dumse & Zanele Muholi


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Everyone walking past the iconic Johannesburg City Hall from their various hustles can feel the energy of what is going to be the tenth Feathers Awards. It is contagious as some stop for selfies with an empty red carpet as the guests of honour make their way to the event.

The Feather Awards is hosted in a building that has stood at the center of Johannesburg since 1914. This building that has stood as a solid structure of exclusion as it housed the Transvaal Government through Apartheid South Africa, is coloured pink with the defiance and audacity of a community that insists it needs to be celebrated.


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As the guests begin to stream into the venue, the heat of the day is interrupted as the heavens open up and shower the event with rain. Although a welcomed relief to the heat, the rain spells disastrous to a red carpet that is laid out, outside City Hall. The official red carpet is cancelled but wherever a Queen, King or Quing may find themselves, there is always a red carpet moment. Cameras flash from all corners of the reception area, and cellphones are raised in strong, proud hands and master selfies are taken and Instagram stories are lit with the colour that fills this room.


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The Brave Beauties, Zanele Muholi’s photographic participants for a series on Transwomen affectionately named the same; enter the room and the energy lifts considerably and everyone wants a photo as they are ushered to the dressing room on the top floor of this classic building. The room is hot with a single archaic air conditioner rumbles in one corner. The heat, no longer just attributed to the heatwave outside, but it is as if it comes from the beautiful people who fill the space, rehearsing their dance routines in between taking turns fleeting their eyebrows and costume changes. Touch ups done the Brave Beauties are ushered to the main hall. Easily identifiable as the hall that will hold a celebration of the LGBTIAQ+ community. The walls are tickled pink with elaborate lighting and the stage draped with the rainbow.


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The room fills up with famous smiles and familiar laughter. Beautiful gowns drape the frames of Queens in attendance and the Kings and Quings are swaggered and dapper in their suits. The lights dim and a spectacular opening to the show begins. A variety of artists don the stage with the Soweto Gay Choir and a myriad of phenomenal dancers. A special mention to Kelly Khumalo who sings a rendition of ‘Natural Woman’ by Aretha Franklin flanked by The Brave Beauties in all of their elegance. The LGBTIAQ+ community being celebrated by those they celebrate on the daily through song and dance is spectacular and fitting for the electric entrance of Somizi Mhlongo, the master, and sometimes missus, of ceremonies for the night, in a beautifully embroidered blazer and enormous tutu skirt.

He proved to be the perfect host, with a delivery packed with humour and cheek, leaving guests in stitches as he made jibes at Bonang Mathebe’s tax woes, and questioned the sexuality of celebrities who claim to walk the straight and narrow, sexually speaking, when claiming that Nomzamo Mbatha could finally date a heterosexual man following her most recent break up with Maps Maponyane. A seasoned roaster, he was also able to interact with the audience, even leaving LaSizwe’s tutu slightly ruffled as Somizi picked on the rather handsome gentleman sitting next to him.

In between the grand laughter in the hall, a few tears are also shed as the organizers walk us through short videos they have prepared including a much welcomed conversation with the sitting President of the republic, President Cyril Ramaphosa, a touching tribute to Simon Nkoli by Constitutional Court Judge Edwin Cameron, as the Feather Awards debuted the Simon Nkoli Award for the first time.


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Of the recipients of the awards a few also stand out. Steve and Lucy Letsike, the winners of the Couple of the Year Award dedicating their award to all those who live the idea of #LoveWins and standing as an example of what Black Queer love looks like. Sjava’s attire raises many an eyebrow as he accepts his award for Musician of the year. He wears a white robe and a box with the faces of those persecuted and killed for “being gay”. Remi Chuene, who took the award for Fag Hag, which extends to those who are absolute allies to the LGBTIAQ+ community implores us to be the voices for those who remain unheard in Tanzania and other places where those in the community continue to suffer under I humane practices and laws.

The home of Inkanyiso was especially touched as Yaya Mavundla accepted her award with The Brave Beauties standing strong and beautiful behind her. She speaks of the atrocities that Trans* community endures and the micro aggressions that filter even through so called professional spaces in our society. She stands tall, and proud of herself and all those who stay true to their identities in the face of adversity and for those who cannot unveil themselves but look up to the likes of her.

Truly a night filled with wonder and magic and love and hope for the future. Thami Kotlolo and his team has stayed true to their running theme and have succeeded in letting the world know that “We are here, We are queer, and We are here to stay.”

The community still has a long way to go to ensure the freedom of all things queer but through events like this, we are certainly heading in the right direction.

Congratulations to all those who won.

All Feather Awards 2018 Winners


Best Styled Male – Riky Rick

Best Styled Female – Ayanda Thabethe

Cutest Couple – Steve & Lucy Letsike

Sports Personality – Hlengiwe Buthelezi

Drama Queen – AKA & Matlapa

Hot Chick – Michelle Mosalakae

Hunk of the Year – Bohang Moeko

Media Award of the Year – GaySA Radio

Musician of the Year – Sjava

Role Model of the Year – Ntsupe Mohapi

Socialite of the Year – Yaya Mavundla

Social Media Personality of the Year – @Fistvoices

Diva Extraodinaire – Thembsie Matu

Simon Nkoli Award – Phumi Mtethwa

African Feather of the Year – Denis Nzioka


About the author, Mantis MAMABOLO

Mantis is a 30 year old and come from Benoni, in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng.
They identify as Trans* non binary and genderqueer specifically. Their preferred pronouns are they/them/theirs.
Their identity is queer. They graduated from the University of Cape Town, with a Bachelor of Commerce in Financial Accounting. They are a budding entrepreneur and social activist.
They are part of the driving team behind Black Womxn Healing Garden, which is a safe space for Black Womxn, inclusive of Coloured and Indian, on Facebook where without fear or judgment can express themselves and seek guidance and support in their own journeys to absolute healing.

Posted in 24 Years of Democracy, Article by Mantis Mamabolo, Feather Awards 10, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex (LGBTI), Trans Activism, trans bodies, Trans feminist, trans-ing, Transformation, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI), Transgender people, Transgender visibility, Transgender Voices, Transgenderism in Africa, Transwoman, Uncategorized, Yaya Mavundla | Leave a comment

Frika Shares Hairstyling Secrets at the GLAMOUR Hair Masterclass

Johannesburg, 5 November 2018: Frika joined forces with GLAMOUR to host the eagerly-awaited GLAMOUR Hair Masterclass at Mall of Africa, on Friday 2 November. GLAMOUR readers gathered in a custom-built marquee, where they were inspired to flaunt striking hairdos and were given a lesson in style, courtesy of three top hair experts from Frika.

Each of them took to the stage to demonstrate the creation of a different hairdo, incorporating key textures for summer. The Mali twist afro, braids and the salsa weave, were the styles showcased and are sure to make a statement this season. After the demonstration, GLAMOUR readers were given the opportunity to put their skills to the test, by recreating the hairdos on mannequins.

To give GLAMOUR readers ideas for refreshing their look and expressing themselves creatively, they were shown multiple hairdos that can be achieved with a single Frika wig, proving the versatility of this product.They could also brush up on their hairstyling know-how by getting valuable advice from Frika’s stylists, during the Q&A session.

GLAMOUR readers were treated to a selection of finger foods, as they sipped on scintillating cocktails. Each of them also walked away with a goodie bag containing luxurious products that they could use to glam up, such as imPRESS Manicure press-on nails, and makeup from Wet ‘n Wild and Black Radiance. To add to that, they were spoilt with body wash, body butter and a Frika-branded bag.

by: Yaya Mavundla

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2018 Nov. 10: Unique Transgender Seminar in KwaZulu Natal

Text and photos by Thobeka Bhengu


The transgender seminar is held at the Durban Gay Centre in KwaZulu-Natal once a month. This session was held at the centre on the 10th of November 2018 in the morning. It is a safe space for transgender people and the space prides itself on confidentiality of the seminar sessions. All personal matters discussed in the sessions are confidential and cannot be discussed outside the space. The discussions and conversations were mostly in English and IsiZulu. There were also special guests from Society for Family Health – SFH that attended the seminar.


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Recap of previous discussions:

When the trans seminars started this year they focused on multiple issues such as relationships, issues in the communities, health issues and generally share their experiences. The sessions focused a lot on health issues such as anal health, male circumcision and educating transwomen about male circumcision if you haven’t done bottom surgery. However, transwomen are not forced to do male circumcision but are educated so that they understand the importance of circumcision. The sessions also focused on transmen and breast cancer because of how health care centres limit the services because of how people identify. The important thing is that diseases attack the body regardless of gender, identity or race. Hence transgender people also need access to all health services.


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In October there was a meeting with doctors or medical practitioners at eThekwini hospital, where they spoke about the needs of trans individuals. The meeting focused on the challenges transgender persons are facing with getting hormones, gender reassignment surgery. The main question was access to these important services. The issue of gender re-assignment surgery being classified as cosmetic surgery in the country makes it impossible for transgender people who do not have medical aid to access the service and also in public health centres there are no resources and doctors to do the re-affirming surgery.

The issue of relationships focused on all kinds of relationships. The relationship with your family, friends, colleagues and the community, because transgender individuals do not transition alone, they transition with the entire community and everyone that is part of their life.

Another issue that came up was the issue of how terms are westernized with regards to LGBTIQ+ people, this is problematic because our communities and families do not understand these terms. Terms in our own languages to address LGBTIQ+ individuals would make it easier for our communities to understand and possibly accept LGBTIQ+ people.

The importance of visibility, support and full participation in the monthly seminars was also raised. This was raised as a result of the lack of attendance and how people do not come to education events bur attend social events. The information shared in these seminars is helpful and will make the transgender movement stronger and more visible.

The session acknowledged that there is currently one hospital and one psychologist working with transgender individuals in KwaZulu-Natal and the hospital is based in Pietermaritzburg. This means that trans people in KwaZulu-Natal have to travel to Pietermaritzburg on a monthly basis to access hormones and attend the trans forum sessions with the psychologist. Discussions with other hospitals in KZN are important so that these services can be accessed in all parts of the province.

SFH – Society for Family Health: Discussion on HIV self-screening test

SFH presented a programme about HIV self-screening, which is an oral quick test that is used to test HIV. The SFH team joined the session to try and informally discuss how to implement a different approach to distribute the test kits and make them more accessible, especially for MSM and transgender individuals.

This particular session focused on getting to know the participants and also finding out how would the kit be distributed, what information will be required to be able to get the kit, what information the participants would be comfortable with sharing to get the kit and a lot of questions and suggestions were raised around the above topics of discussions around the self-screening kit.

The issue of counselling for first time testers was raised, in a situation where the person has bought the kit or received it through courier services. Some participants felt that the self-screening test done at the comfort of your home might require counselling regardless of the outcome of the test. A counselling helpline was suggested and linkages to nearest health or LGBTI facilities were also suggested for those in need of counselling after doing the test or before. Some participants suggested that a booklet must be attached to the kit in case the person testing requires certain information about HIV and the test itself.

Most participants suggested that the kit be ordered online for free and be delivered at their homes or workplace. This would make it easier for people to access the kit and be able to use it at home. Others also suggested that there should be a link online that would contain information or when it’s delivered a counsellor should be available in case a counselling session is needed or a person with knowledge of HIV should be available on delivery of the kit.

The questions on what information to share when ordering the kit was raised and most participants felt that they would share their number, personal details and address to order the kit online. Some participants also suggested there should be a follow up call from an anonymous caller after you have received the testing kit to find out the results of your test; But some participants did not feel comfortable about receiving that call and having to disclose their status.

The continuous stigma around HIV became another issue that was raised, which was picked up from the discussions and how some participants felt about people being seen or discovered accessing the self-screening kit. This particular session mostly focused on getting information that SFH requires to understand the needs of the LGBTI+ people, so as to understand how the distribution of these HIV self-screening tests can be available and accessible to the community.


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Previous by Thobeka


2018 Nov. 9: Johannesburg Pride 2018 that was


Related links


2013 Oct. 13: Frustrations of a transgender man


2013 Aug. 9: Transgender youth suicide in Johannesburg
2013 Oct. 4: I sensed something was wrong
2013 March 12: Trans(parent) interview
2011 May – GDX – SIPD Exchange Programme
2013 Oct. 18 Transition is in your hands


2013 March 12: Trans(parent) interview



Posted in #Butch Mbokodo  #Siyanqoba #InkanyisoMyFamily #QueerBeauty #ArtOfActivism, Confidentiality, Durban Gay Centre, English and IsiZulu, KwaZulu Natal, Society for Family Health, Transgender people, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2018 Nov. 9: Johannesburg Pride 2018 that was

by Thobeka Bhengu

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The 29th edition of Johannesburg Pride had another run on the 25th to the 28th of October 2018, packed with multiple events that ranged from a lifestyle conference focusing on health and LGBTQ+ rights, a fitness event, a gala dinner showcasing community heroes, the official pride parade and festival, closing with a family brunch on the 28th. The event that seems to attract large numbers of the LGBTQ+ community is the official pride event, which is a parade and festival; with the festival attracting the largest numbers of people and the event trending on social media.

On the 27th of October, I was up early in the morning after a six-hour drive to Johannesburg with my acquaintances. After a few drinks and light conversations when we arrived on the 26th, I was certain I was skipping the parade as I was the only one who had asked if we were going to make it to the parade. The responses made it clear that the parade was not the main event of pride, the responses seemed quite familiar to me. This didn’t come as a shock as I have never had any desire to persuade or share my thoughts with my friends and acquaintances on the importance of pride marches. The morning of the 27th we woke up around 11 am, leisurely got ready and headed for the pride festivities and I couldn’t help but be anxious about what I was to expect since it was the first Johannesburg Pride I have ever attended.

After we had arrived at Melrose Arch, we decided to take a quick walkabout trying to figure out what was happening around the venue that saw large numbers gathered at Melrose Arch. People were still arriving in their numbers hours after our arrival, within the first hour of being in the space my feet were sore and there was no way of getting a seat in the packed venue with small to large groups randomly spread in selected spots that they could find in the venue. I watched as large numbers of queer people tried to move about to and around the packed beverage stalls in their fashionable clothing, looking like they just stepped out of the runway. It was refreshing to see so many diverse queer people looking their best. As the sun began to set, the venue was packed to capacity, leaving very little room to move around and socialize, as groups gathered in their preferred spots dancing to their favourite jams and enjoying live performances from various artists such as Toya Delazy as a headlining artist, DJ Tinks, DJ Biskit and many more. Johannesburg Pride 2018 was precisely what they had promised, a festival at Melrose Arch that was meant to “Colour the Streets in our Diversity.’’ A few people expressed their disappointment about the turnout at the parade as opposed to the festival.

After reflecting on my experience I had a better understanding of the importance of the discussions around the politics of pride. Without failure to acknowledge that the politics of pride have evolved over time. We have to acknowledge that for some people, pride festivals are merely a platform to celebrate and be merry and for others it is political. Whilst I recognize the diversity amongst the LGBTQ+ community, it is a shame that we continue to allow the commercialization of pride and consciously disregarding the opportunity to join the ongoing fight for LGBTI+ rights in our numbers at pride parades.

There are clear odd dynamics created by the origins of pride celebrations, that were born of strong political acts and the current pride celebrations across the world have become more about the fun and parties. South Africa is no different from the rest of the world and has hastily moved towards the commercialization of pride festivities across the country. The discussions of the politics of pride are still continuing around South Africa. As deliberations continue and in some spaces still being overlooked, we have a number of questions to ask ourselves as the queer community about the aim of these pride celebrations. Have we won the fight for acceptance, respect, and equality for LGBTQ+ people in South Africa? Is there no longer any violence and oppression of LGBTQ+ people in South Africa? I have a lot of questions in mind that would suggest there is an ongoing necessity for a political pride before the big party. As long as LGBTQ+ people are still targets, to corrective rape, murder and discrimination then there is still a need to organize and address the ongoing violations of basic human rights for queer people in South Africa.

As we celebrated and enjoyed the festivities of Johannesburg Pride 2018, let us not forget that our voices are louder when we stand hand in hand and completely disregard the idea that pride is just a loud party but highlight the importance of visibility and the ongoing fight against discrimination and homophobia. Let us work towards inclusive and safe pride celebrations across the country.


About the author

Thobeka Bhengu is a performance art & human rights activist, performer, choreographer and an artistic director of the Rainbow Theatre Company, a project of the Gay & Lesbian Network. She was born in Inanda, Durban in 1988 and lives in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal.

She studied BA Drama & Performance Studies at the University Of KwaZulu Natal in Pietermaritzburg; where she performed in productions such as William Shakespeare’s Mid-Summer Night’s Dream directed by Paul Datlen, Tortouise’s Dream directed by Ntokozo Madlala, The Beatles & Young Gifted and Gorgeous(Musicals) directed by Peter Mitchell.

She was introduced to theatre and dance when she was doing her first year of Law in 2007 and had chosen drama as an elective.
In 2010 she dropped her Law degree and registered for a BA in Drama & Performance Studies. She started taking extra dance classes with Vusi Makhanya, Mandisa Roelene Haarhoff, Mlondi Zondi, Mbo Mtshali and Kwanele Finch Thusi.  Dance became a language that she understood, a way to tell stories using the body as a tool. She first performed on a professional stage outside the University in 2011 at the Jomba Contemporary Dance Festival (Fringe) in two works by Mandisa Roelene Haarhoff and Zenzelisphesihle “Sparky” Xulu.

            In 2013 she moved to Cape Town and joined the Earth Child project as a volunteer, teaching drama and contemporary dance.

After her first tour in 2014 to Swaziland & Zimbabwe with a production titled Sound Gaze: Moving Images of Marie in Woyzeck , directed by Juanita Chitepo, she decided to dedicate her career to creating work that moves people, a platform for dialogues and work that addresses social ills, injustices and violence directed towards marginalized people, specifically focusing on the LGBTI+ community and women.

 In 2015 she took her first production as a working artist to the Jomba Contemporary Dance Festival (Fringe)  with the Rainbow Theatre Company. In the same year, she launched her first photography exhibition that represents and captures from a different eye, a series of well-known hate crime cases in South Africa and original stories of real life LGBTI+ members around Pietermaritzburg, through the use of photography, performance art and music. This exhibition supported by the Gay & Lesbian Network became part of the Pink Mynah Festival Film & Arts Exhibition, which is an annual festival aimed at celebrating diversity within communities, bringing people together and creating awareness.

She has created several works such as Ab/normal; My Body, My Life, My Decisions; Reality Check: Living Vulnerable lives; Breaking Dawn.

Her recent interest in photography has given her a platform to include images of her visual work in performance.  Some of the visuals were included in the 2016 National Arts Festival (Fringe) production titled My Body, My Life, My Decisions by the Rainbow Theatre Company.


Posted in 24 Years of Democracy, Abantu, Activists Act, Advocacy, Africa, Archive, Archiving Queer Her/Histories in SA, Art, Art is Queer, Pride is a Human Right, Uncategorized, Writing is a Right | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2018 Nov.7: Launching the Dark Lioness

by Lerato Dumse

Following successful launches in USA Philadelphia, Atlanta, New York City as well as Johannesburg, South Africa. Oslo, Norway became the first European country to host Somnyama Ngonyama book launch on November 1, 2018. Zanele Muholi launched the much awaited photo book comprising of more than 90 self-portraits. The event featured as part of Oslo World festival focusing on Freedom in collaboration with Kunstplass, a venue for Contemporary Art.

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After a brief search using the directions given to us by Henriette Stensdal owner of the gallery, we arrived at Kunstplass, which was hard to miss with the LGBT flag and a huge banner with the iconic Somnyama IV, Oslo, 2015 image hanging Conspicuously outside the gallery.  


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Having reached the venue on time the gallery team were working on the final touches of the setup process setting up chairs, the projection and most importantly laying out a stack of sealed Somnyama Ngonyama copies. Following a welcome note by gallerist Vibeke Hermanrud and introduction by Oslo World Director Alexandra Stølen, it was over to Muholi who started the evening by presenting a slide show of Somnyama Ngonyama images, giving background and anecdotes to the conceptualization and production of the self portraits. Muholi also gave a brief presentation of other bodies of work created since the early 2000s till present. With the slide show concluded, guests were given an opportunity to purchase a copy of the book and have it signed by Muholi.

Somnyama Ngonyama launches have taken different forms, in Philadelphia it was part of a book fair, then at  Spelman Museum, Atlanta hosted it alongside a Somnyama Ngonyama travel exhibition and artist walk-about; NYC had a book party and signing at Yancey Richardson Gallery followed by a conversation and launch at New York University with Deborah Willis. Johannesburg had a book launch with a twist when Wiser, Wits University had a panel discussion by Jackie Mondi, Milisuthando Mbongela and Pumelela Nqelenga moderated by Prof Hlonipha Mokoena with Muholi in the audience responding to questions from the house.


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On the day that the book was launched in Johannesburg, in neighbouring Cape Town the Actuarial Society released their prediction that in the year 2100 the world’s three largest cities will be African. One of the questions posed by the panellists during Somnyama launch was how will the work be viewed in 20 years? The more open-ended question is how will the work be viewed should the Actuarial’s prediction come true. Which conversations will dominate, how will racial, social, political and economic landscape look around the globe?


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The answer rests partly on where this archive ends up, with ever evolving technological advancements; external hard drives will probably be a thing of the past. The written text that interpret the images in Somnyama is contributed by poets, academics, curators to name a few and are written from different perspectives including admiration, moments of discovery, anger, questioning and responding to known realities.

How the world and South Africa will look in the year 2100 is anyone’s prediction, calculation and guess. According to Zanele Muholi, Somnyama Ngonyama seeks to respond to the past and the present, time will tell its relevance for the future.



Previous by Lerato Dumse


2015 Aug. 23: Muholi and Dumse present at Light Work Artist AIR


Related links



2018 Oct. 25: Somnyama Ngonyama – Wiser Launch







‘I’m scared. But this work needs to be shown’: Zanele Muholi’s 365 protest photographs




The Fever-Dream Urgency of Zanele Muholi’s Self-Portraits in “Somnyama Ngonyama”


Zanele Muholi’s Transformations


An important departure for a real conversation: Zanele Muholi’s ‘Somnyama Ngonyama’

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