by Kopano Sibeko
For any stereotypical person who is a South African,when you see the word iMbokodo you’ll think a straight/ hetero woman with children or a married woman with/out children.
It is a myth of course because there are many definitions or how iMbokodo individuals identify themselves.
Question what happens when a black – self identifying lesbian win Mbokodo award.
By the way iMbokodo derived from Wathint’ Abafazi, Wathint’ iMbokodo – English translation “You strike a woman, you strike a rock”)
Greeted by elegance as I stood outside The Theatre on the Track in Kyalami, Midrand, Johannesburg.
Surrounded by beautiful (intergenerational) women who were dressed to kill as they anticipated who will take the prestigious Mbokodo awards for different categories.
Themed titled “The Phoenix within me: African woman arise!” inspired by the great American poet Maya Angelou.
Without being too critical, am disturbed by the fact that we have not used own South African Maya’s for this theme since we have many who have written extensively on the very the same subject matter as they experience the Apartheid the divided the nation.
The second annual Mbokodo awards held on 29 August 2013, highlighted creative photography amongst many categories. The beautiful ceremony honoured South African women who are deserving of being appreciated and recognised for their artistic works.
Photographers: Zanele Muholi, Neo Ntsoma and Marlene Neumann contended for the award that celebrates the creative use of photography in original and exciting ways.
According to the 2013 Mbokodo brochure the particular award ‘honours artists who through subject matter or technique expand the boundaries of their genre.’
Muholi through her wit and beliefs of visual activism received the award.
She voiced out that the award stands, “to honour all the women who gave birth to Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) children.”
Muholi emphasized that is not a sin for parents to give love and embrace their LGBTI children.
Also dedicated the award to the lost life of the brutally murdered lesbian, Duduzile Zozo from Thokoza East of Johannesburg.
In March 2013, Muholi received the Index on Censorship award for Freedom of Expression, London.
At the end of July 2013, received the Glamour award titling her as the Campaigner of the Year, Johannesburg.
In Aug. 2013 won the 2nd Mbokodo award.
On the 26th Aug. 2013, Muholi had an interview with Azania Mosaka of PowerFM and spoke about the importance of Visual Activism and her recent appointment as the Hononary Professor of the University of the Arts/Hochschule Fur Kunste Bremen. She vehemently expressed that “ I didn’t expect this, but I feel honoured to be acknowledged as a person who holds such authority , especially in the work that I do.”
The honorary ceremony will take place on the 28th October 2013, Bremen, Germany.
Azania described her as a globe trotter, Muholi continues to tour the world and speak about her subjective art of photography. Muholi expressed in Glamour magazine’s August issue that “my mission is to ensure that there are positive images of black lesbians in the mainstream media.”
She has openly uttered that when she ponders about the time she was growing up, she never saw photographs of people like her (black lesbians) and that’s what inspired her to start documenting South African black lesbians.
She also mentioned that the only time that black lesbians are headlined in the mainstream media, are when they are hate crime survivors if not victims and at that point they are already dead to share their stories. If at all that murder case becomes prominent like that of Eudy Simelane (1977- 2008); Noxolo Nogwaza (1987 -2011) and Duduzile Zozo (1987 – 2013).
The visual activist also featured in Drum Magazine earlier this year, she was questioned about her passion in photography and the LGBTI community, she said “I’m passionate about photography and especially documenting the black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities because that’s a kind of social documentary that has not been captured sufficiently”.
“If it’s not documented it never happened” these are the words that Muholi commonly shares with her crew members of Inkanyiso, a developing media production that she founded in 2009.
Muholi strongly believes if something is not captured, through audio, video or photography’s one can never really defend its existence because there’s nothing tangible to show for it.
Muholi continues to add that “I feel like there’s not a lot of positive writing about black lesbians in our country. It’s up to us as black lesbians to change the negative imagery. We need to create a balance. Yes there’s violence, but there are positive stories to tell.”
She confesses that, that’s where the inception of Inkanyiso was awakened. “Who better to tell our stories than ourselves” she giggles.
“To be validated and recognised internationally you have to work hard “shares Muholi who also admits that her work is more recognised internationally than it is locally, she says that it saddens her that her work carries more weight in other countries than in SA.
Some South Africans are thirsty for queer content, and schools curricular need to inclusive Sexual Orientation studies and African Sexualities. In that way we will be able to negotiate our stance in our communities to further educate many who might not understand the LGBTI lives and realities.
It is rather rare that one interviews Muholi and doesn’t mention Lulu Xingwana in the same breathe, Muholi laughs and says “ now she’s an advocate for change and that’s all that matters”, she adds that people like giving Lulu unnecessary airtime.
Like almost every other women who was nominated at the awards Muholi shared her ‘unexpected’ joy, nervousness and gratitude to be recognized in a country where women were previously oppressed and disadvantaged.
The awards seek to continuously empower women to rise “The Mbokodo Awards are a poignant reminder of the custodial role women play in nurturing our society” believes Carol Bouwer, founder of Carol Bouwer Productions , Executive Producer of Mbokodo Awards.
Some of the presenters were:
Some performing acts…
For full view of 2013 Mbokodo winners. Click here
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