International IDEA (Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance)
2013: Africa Programme at the Workshop on “Strategies to overcome Political Exclusion-Lessons from Southern Africa” held in Pretoria, South Africa.
by Jeremiah Sepotokele
The International IDEA (Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance) hosted a four day workshop on strategies to overcome political exclusion by marginalised groups from the Global South, particularly the Southern African region. The workshop took place from the 3- 6 Dec .2013.
Although I attended the last two days of the workshop with Zanele Muholi, the workshop was really an educational and a platform that linked a number of civil society groups from the region. Participants came from various Southern African countries including: Rainbow Identity (Botswana); LEGABIBO (Botswana); Women and Law in Southern Africa (Lesotho); National University of Lesotho (Lesotho); Centre for the Development of People (Malawi); Non-Governmental Organisation Gender Coordination Network (NGO GCN) (Malawi); National Youth Council of Malawi (Malawi); Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre (Malawi); Civil Liberties Committee (Malawi); Women Across Borders (Namibia); Namibia Women’s Health Network (Namibia); Pan African ILGA/PAI (Namibia); Zambia National Women’s Group (Zambia); Operation Young Vote/OYV (Zambia); National Association of Youth Organisations/ NAYO (Zimbabwe); Coalition of African Lesbians / CAL (South Africa); 180 Studios (Australia); LaNYT Theatre (England); Minority Rights Group International (United Kingdom); Fortify Rights (Thailand); IDEA (Sweden); Inkanyiso (South Africa)
The workshops were facilitated by Amanda Harding who is a consultant from England/ France and the much broader focus was on marginalised groups which included issues affecting members of the LGBTI community, women and youth.
Different strategies and lessons were further discoursed and shared at this platform. Upon my arrival with Muholi (on the third day), there was a great sense of community and positive energy among the participants of the workshop. Muholi with her photographic savvy and prowess was requested to take a group photo of the participants and their spirits were sky-high as they smiled “cheese” directly at the camera lens without fail.
After lunch, Muholi took to the platform to present on visual activism: multi-media strategies and how different media outlets can be organized in combination to battle political exclusion. Muholi was introduced by Lerato Dumse to the participants briefly as she set up shop for her presentation.
The presentation proved to be refreshing as Muholi spoke on queer visibility in mainstream media and taking ownership of media platforms as way of asserting queer existence.
A video-clip which Muholi worked on in collaboration with the Human Rights Watch (HRW) was screened and it explored her work as a visual activist.
The video-clip documented Muholi’s photographic practice in which she asserts lesbian love and violence through portraiture. The work of Inkanyiso which she founded was also captured in the clip and spoke of importance of collectivism and how the platform explores the untold stories and experiences of black lesbians and other members of the LGBTI community.
Muholi further necessitated the importance of creative art forms as a tool for advancing gender advocacy and human rights objectives.
She provided the participants with a more tangible evidence of how documentation can perform the work of political assertion in a much contested and violent social environment against minority groups and black lesbians in the country and beyond.
Furthermore, Muholi shared the recent documentary of Ayanda Magoloza and Nhlanhla Moremi’s wedding (a lesbian couple) who live in Thokoza township as way of expounding on what she had mentioned in the video viewed earlier.
There is a necessity of a balanced documentation, one that is an honest representation of queer realities.
“SO therefore one must strike a balance between the stories of love and intimacy than those which are negative: …of violence and hate crimes” she said.
The viewing of the lesbian’s couple wedding in the township was undisputedly revitalizing as it provided an instant for a celebration of positive narratives of romantic lesbian love and passion. “These stories are equally important as they themselves ignite anger and disorganizes the mind of the perpetrators of hate crimes” said Muholi.
After the presentation the group headed for dinner which was held at Moyo restaurant in Pretoria. The food was scrumptious and provided another opportunity for personal engagement among participants. There was a musician with an acoustic guitar playing all sorts of melodies and harmonies which left the participants dance and hop as if their lives depended on those expressions.
The last day of the workshop began with the moment of reflection from what the participants had learned thus far. Majority of the participants pointed out on Muholi’s inspirational presentation and reflected on the importance of documentation and the use of available resources for communication. Others pointed out how they have learned the use of theatre as an instrument of initiating change.
Before wrapping up the workshop, the organisers set up a small-group task on alliance building and mobilization strategies.
The task was to deliberately gear the participants into formulating strategies on what was imparted on them throughout the workshop. The participants were divided into three groups, each working on youth, women’s rights and the LGBTI community respectively. Subsequently there was a feedback session by a representative from each group describing strategies on alliance building from their own separate thematic areas as tasked.
All the groups were not as original as they basically reiterated what was discussed throughout the session, from politically-charged theatrical initiatives to documentation projects that was spoken of amongst others.
However the workshop was an interesting platform as it explored the intersectional similarities between marginalised groups. The session ended with concluding remarks from Amanda Harding and Julian Smith who were the facilitators from International IDEA.