2013 July 9: Living in and loving the lesbian boarding house in Hillbrow

by Collen Mfazwe

Collen Mfazwe's portrait  by Zanele Muholi (2013/05/18

Collen Mfazwe’s portrait by Zanele Muholi (2013/05/18)

They say blood is thicker than water but blood doesn’t make a family, love does. I say this because I am living testimony that this statement is true. I want to tell you about my family, not the family that I was born into but the family that I live with. We are not related by blood but we are related by love and pure passion to succeed in changing the world. We are called the Inkanyiso collective.

Room ### can be best described as a room full of love. There is so much joy and peace. It’s a small haven that our ‘blended’ family has constructed. We always have each other’s back and are always there for each other. Not forgetting that we have our own conflicts at times but have to resolve at the end of the day if not the week. It may sound simplistic, but we are always taking care of one another. Our belongings are everybody’s – – except women of course!

While Room ### is a home to us, an outsider may think that it is akin to a lesbian shelter or boarding school. There are about 10 of us living there at any given time, sometimes more. Through all this, I love about this is that there is mutual understanding and respect amongst us.

Without bordering on the unreal and sounding like we are in some sort of a utopia, I want to point out that we do bicker, just like any normal family out there. We make mistakes, we cry, we laugh a lot and most of all we document our lives and surroundings. We drive Zanele Muholi crazy most of the times. S/he is the head of ‘the class’.

What I like about my new family is that we all come from different backgrounds but we all envision one thing, success. We may all be different, beautiful and intelligent in our own ways but our end goal is the common goal of being productive and successful beings. Sometimes it seems unrealistic like some movie scene, but this is not a script.

Zandile, our kitchen manager preparing breakfast.  Photo by Collen

Zandile, our kitchen manager preparing breakfast.
Photo by Collen

One of the occupants, Zandile Makhubu says “ ### is a shelter for all, a place for intellectuals” and continues to say that it is her second home. “I’ve struck a bond with people who reside there. I’ve learnt a lot, I’ve learnt how to tell a story through photography, art and writing” she expresses.

Maureen Velile Majola supports Zandile’s statement and adds “it’s where we feel comfortable enough to show off our bodies and not be judged. It’s where one has sisters and brothers that care deeply for them and it’s where everything in the world doesn’t really matter, we laugh as hard and work as hard. That’s ### ” she says.

Crew brainstorming on lesbian health matters and our well being

Crew brainstorming on lesbian health matters and our well being

Everyone is a peer and we are all equal. We all sleep on the floor, and it bonds us as it is an odd but enjoyable endeavour. We don’t have a fridge to keep our food fresh and. We do not have any income or funding for some of the projects we do but we survive. Thanks to Muholi, the head of this commune, whose been the main source for the collective needs for now, a friend to the other, a father to one who never knew one and a great mentor to all of us. S/he has an amazing spirit and a giving heart. Muholi says, “ I have been embraced by many generous souls which is why it is my principle to transfer knowledge and resources to those immediate beings around me, especially individuals who are contributing into my photography.”

Even though we have the above mentioned challenges, we never go to bed hungry. We have all the equipment we need to get our work done. We contribute the little that we have to get some supplies, but most of the time Muholi ensures that we are fed. S/he also ensures that we are caught up on current affairs and that we are getting the necessary education that we may need to get ahead.

“I can never begin to express the joy, the peace and the love that this family has breathed into my heart”, Kopano Sibeko says. She explains that there is nothing as beautiful as doing what you love and living with people that understand you. “All I can say is nothing makes sense without the Inkanyiso crew anymore” she muses.

Inkanyiso crew members and friends. Almost all the individuals in this picture have contributed their time and work to the collective.

Inkanyiso crew members and friends. Almost all the individuals in this photo have contributed their time and work to the collective. This is our new generation of black lesbian youth, professional with brains… let alone beauty

Previous by Collen

2013 June 6: Dangerous is not the Young Black Men in Daveyton


2013 May 19: There’s beauty in aging


2013 April 17: Collen’s black & white album


This entry was posted in Another Approach Is Possible, Archived memories, Art Activism in South Africa, As we are, Beauty, Before You, Black Lesbians, Inkanyiso crew, Interpretation, Johannesburg, Photo album, Portrait, Power of the Voice, Professional black lesbians in South Africa, Readings, ReClaim Your Activism, Records and histories, Relationships, revolution, South Africa, Translation, Visual history is a Right not a luxury, We Are You, We Care, We Still Can with/out Resources, Youth voices. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to 2013 July 9: Living in and loving the lesbian boarding house in Hillbrow

  1. Ramazan Ngobese says:

    I love you all guys ningenze ngathanda ukufunda namaPics sengiyawathanda

  2. HOLAA! says:

    This is such an amazing space! So beautiful xoxoxoxxo We would love to re-blog this piece on our site is the author is interested. http://www.holaafrica.org

  3. Junie says:

    Keep up the great job guys. We love your work…and may your bond grow even stronger.

  4. Pingback: 2013 Sept. 11: Baby, last night was great for me | inkanyiso.org

  5. Nomali Mndebele says:

    i love everything about that home, i would love to be part of the family there in Hillbrow since well that is where i live.

  6. Pingback: 2014 May 3: Inkanyiso crew is a family | inkanyiso.org

  7. Pingback: 2014 April 30: Good spirit dampened by my grandfather’s death | inkanyiso.org

  8. dimakatso says:

    I’m so inspired by Zanele Muholi’s job I pray that God our Lord bless and give her more to give

  9. Pingback: 2015 June 19: Travelling to another country is not the same as travelling to another province | inkanyiso.org

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