by Collen Mfazwe
Growing up was never easy but it was kind of fun because I did not understand some of the things I was supposed to understand, e.g. why did I have to menstruate every month?
Why did my breasts have to grow?
It is not like I had to feed a baby. Those where the questions I always had when I was growing up since I identify as a butch lesbian. Even now I still have those questions. I just do not understand and I do not want to understand, why do I have to understand things that I do not like or things that I do not want.
I grow up in a family with two boys and three girls and I was the other boy to balance
the numbers to three boys and three girls. We were raised by our late lovely mother who always knew what she wanted for us and was always with us. No matter how hard the situation, she always stood by us. I am talking about the woman who taught us all the things we needed to know in life. I mean sharing, cleanliness, respect but most of all she taught us how to pray the Lord’s Prayer because God was our only father we had and even today he is the only father we have .
My mom was the strongest woman I ever known and her passing on distracted me so much. I remember leaving school and going to hang around with friends and becoming a stranger to my own home because I could not stay at home anymore. Things that I did before I did not do them anymore because I thought I wanted to prove to my mom that I can be stronger than her and I wanted to do things that she had not done for us to make her the happiest woman in the world but God took her from us. That is where I gave up everything and started to be something else to the extent that my aunt went to police station to report that I was not schooling and was not staying at home, asking the police to help her by taking me to the cell every weekend, just for me to be safe. I was with her when she filed the report. I promised the police that it would not happen again and they took my word for it. Right after we left the station I disappeared just like that.
One night we went out with friends drinking and smoking having fun, walking drunk at night and feeling invincible. Fun turned out to be my worst nightmare. A group of boys robbed us, taking my friend’s phone and stabbing another of my friends. It was so shocking, painful and scary. We thought she would die so we carried her to a nearest police station to look for an emergency ambulance. Luckily we got one there, she eventually survived and that was my wake up call. I went back home and started going to school but I didn’t pass my matric and that didn’t make me a failure because life was really hard and there was no income at home so I choose to do things that I knew the will feed me and my family. I started to open a small business selling snacks and ice creams. I was also gardening and painting so that I could put bread on the table for the young ones. My elder brother and sister were doing their best as well. This is what allowed me to pick myself up.
I always wanted to be a successful businessman and I always saw myself staying in a big house when I grew up. I was raised in a shack and always had dreams. I wanted to be a Forensic Accountant but all that has not happened yet.
I am now a photographer, not by mistake but because God wanted me to be one. Zanele Muholi found me at the 2012 Miss Gay and Mr Lesbian contest in Daveyton. Later she introduced me to photography and took me to the Market Photo Workshop to study photography and now I can say I have a career. I need to maintain it and make sure I do not repeat the mistakes of yesterday. Muholi is everything to me. She showed me that one could be anything if they want. I am the holder of my future. It is in my hands and I am the controller of my life. I just have to be responsible for my every action, thanks to Muholi.
Today I receive emails from people I never met but they only experienced my work saying, “Dear Collen Mfazwe can we kindly have the permission to use your work for our article or book?”
How fascinating is that?
It is possible if you believe.