by Lesego Tlhwale
On the 21st March 2013 Zanele Muholi, visual activist and founder of Inkanyiso production was honoured for her extraordinary work of capturing the lives of black lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex individuals in South Africa.
Muholi was the overall winner in the ART category at the Index Freedom of Expression Award ceremony hosted by SAGE Publications and Index on Censorship an international registered charity organization that defines and defends freedom of expression in London.
The first LGBTI Activist to win an award at this event, Muholi was praised by Kirst Hughes, CEO of index on censorship saying that “Zanele has shown such extraordinary courage and determinations, she has faced intense pressures and discriminations but she stood up to those attempts that try to stop her”.
These internationally renowned Awards are a key date in the calendar for United Kingdom’s top journalists, artists, lawyers and human rights activists.
Index on Censorship for those who do not know, is the voice of free expression. Through their countless campaigns, they challenge threats to free expression and give a voice to journalists, writers, artists and activists who have been prevented from speaking out.
The awards that have been hosted annually for the past thirteen years recognized the selfless work of individuals who would sacrifices their life for human rights advancements. People who no matter what the circumstances stand up for what they believe in.
Muholi is no stranger to award ceremonies as she has attended and received quite a few awards for her work as photographer, film maker and LGBTI activist.
Her work as a visual activist has been recognized locally and internationally.
Some of Muholi’s famous productions include; Faces and Phases (Portrait Exhibition of black lesbians) a project that has run since 2006. Muholi’s award-winning documentary Difficult Love commissioned by SABC in 2010 has shown at various international film festivals including the recent International Film Festival on Human Rights (FIFDH), Geneva on the 8th March 2013.
Difficult Love has since won 9 awards:
– 8th Bilbao, Zinegoak’s Lesbianism and Genre Award granted by the Equality, Cooperation and Citizenship Area of the Council of Bilbao in Spain, January 2011.
– Second award from the “CINHOMO”, the Valladolid LGBT Film Festival Spain, April 2011.
– Best short film (less then 60 min.) at Africa In The Picture Film Festival, Amsterdam, October 2011.
– Best Documentary at the Durban Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.
– Best Audience award at Reeling 30: The Chicago Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival US (2011).
– Audience award at IFEMA.
– International Female Film Festival Malmö, Sweden. 2012.
– Audience award at the London Lesbian & Gay film festival (LLGFF), London (2012).
– Best Jury award at Some Prefer Cake lesbian film festival, Italy (2012).
To date Muholi has three publications:
– Zanele Muholi African Women Photographers #1 (2011)
– Faces and Phases (2010)
– Only half the Picture (2006)
Muholi also won the 2009 Casa Africa award for best female photographer and a Foundation Blachère award at Les Rencontres de Bamako biennial of African photography. She also received a Fanny Ann Eddy accolade from IRN-Africa for her outstanding contributions in the study of sexuality in Africa, at the Genders & Sexualities in Africa Conference held in Syracuse, New York”.
In November 2012, Muholi was nominated for the 1st Mbokodo awards but did not win it.
For more check: http://www.mbokodoawards.co.za/
Just last year (21 December 2012), Muholi won Best Photographer of the year award at the LGBTI Recognition Awards
ceremony held at Soweto Theatre, Johannesburg. The awards ceremony are a local initiative started by an individual known as ‘Nob Ody’, the aim of the awards is to recognise those that have contributed to the South African LGBTI community through activism, community building and some just for being good role models to others in the community.
Such awards I believe are significant for our community in order to create visibility of LGBTI individuals who fought tirelessly to make sure we enjoy each and every right as enshrined in the constitution of our country. Yes, we still have battles to fight for the eradication of homophobia and hate crimes towards LGBTI’s. However, we also need to stop a bit and recognize those who dedicate their lives to this fight.
It is because of the bravery of individuals who were part of the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality (NCGLE) in the nineties when they lobbied and challenged the South African government for the inclusion of ‘sexual orientation’ in the Bill of Rights and ultimately in the new Constitution.
As the LGBTI community we need to start the culture of recognizing our own. We need to start appreciating the work done by those who have dedicated their lives to LGBTI organizations. Those individuals who advocate for our safety and security, and those like Zanele who are on a journey to ensure that there is black South African trans and queer visibility.
Read related article in Guardian, UK…
South African photographer black lesbians portrait award
Read more on acceptance speeches from the winners
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