2014 Nov. 25: Faces and phases-embodying the freedom of being

Book Review by Glenda Tambu Muzenda

Faces and Phases (2006 – 2014) showcases resistance and courage from all corners of the country. From South Africa trailing into Canada, United Kingdom and the Netherlands, the threat of erasing sexualities of black lesbians, and even more so evanescent to extinction, has been so clear with lack of favourable climate to produce this knowledge.

Zanele Muholi took visual activism to another level by producing such an exposition to the world, and building an archive rendering homosexuality not just as a shadow but a reality to showcase.

A world never ready for that which they want to keep a secret, Muholi brought attention globally to an issue that stood to wage resistance that of being and relevant to its society. In 2010, former Minister of Arts and Culture Lulu Xingwana denounced the exhibition’s phase as immoral and walked out. Unpalatable to some, yet a victorious moment for those of us who only sought to be representative of a democratic society and raise the sexual and body politics to a world still bearing the arms of conformity.


Busi Sigasa at Women's Gaol, Braamfontein Johannesburg (2006)

Busi Sigasa at Women’s Gaol, Braamfontein Johannesburg (2006)


What Muholi brought from 2006 with the birth of Faces and Phases was a processing and an understanding of the body not only as a vessel, but the imbrication of bodies and histories. The body has been marked as a place of politics and Muholi took advantage of this fact to expose the resistance within each photograph.

History is therefore no longer imagined but shows a substantive account of generations in organized resistance to the conforming agenda of society. This deployment of divergence speaks to a political space that not only in South Africa, but world over black lesbians resist conforming, to be relevant and significant in their own skin.

My encounter with Zanele Muholi’s work almost eight years ago has certainly made it clear that we remain to be seen. Identity and gender expression are key issues that Muholi has focused on within her work and over the years there has been a significant transformation of her work showing the diverse lives of lesbians’ world over even within the sample of the exhibits.

As gender and sexual minorities, we remain in combat for another freedom, but can celebrate this freedom of life knowing that we have always been here and that we are no longer just imagined, we are a reality. The photography is powerful and messages speak of just being human, not to be forgotten or erased in this time but be remembered in all aspects of their lives as activists, artists, professionals, mothers, lovers, sisters and women who love women.


Glenda’s bio

Glenda Muzenda is a sociology scholar interested in issues of sexuality and gender in the contemporary context emerging in policy and programming for sexual well-being in particularly the silencing of pleasure discourse in South Africa (Africa). Her writing and research interests focus mainly on sexuality and its significance, pleasure and agency of young girls as well as how to positively engage boys and men in the developmental discourses of gender equality.
Glenda envisions research to produce new knowledge without neglecting contributions that are positive of beliefs, practices and norms in local cultures is necessary to find synergies in the context of sexualities. Her research seeks to engage with gender and social dynamics, politics of gender and sexual politics that sexualities within the complexities of a context it is applicable.



Previous by Glenda


2013 March 22: Gloom, glamour and graves






2013 March 8: Ndilele






This entry was posted in 8 years, Activated queer spaces, Activists, Another Approach Is Possible, Archived memories, Archiving Queer Her/Histories in SA, Arguments, Art Activism, Art Activism in South Africa, Art Is A Human Right, Art is Queer, Article, Articles, Articulation, Arts, Arts & Culture, As we are, Attention, Audience, Being seen, Black Lesbians, Bodies and histories, Book launches, Book Review, by Glenda Tambu Muzenda, Celebration, Citizenship, courage, Democratic, Divergence, Diversity, Embodies, Encounter, Exposure, Expression, Faces and Phases (2006 - 2014), Facts, Focus, Freedom, Friendships, Gender expression, Imagined, Imbrication, Immoral, Issues of sexuality, Key issues, Livelihood, Lives of black lesbiansa, Living, Lovers, Making a mark, Moments, Mothers, Photography, Political space, Powerful, Professionals, Re-presentation, Reality, resistance, Scholarly approach, Sexual minorities, Sisters, Society, South Africa, Time, Transformation, Transgenderism, Understanding, Visual history, Women who love women, Zanele Muholi and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to 2014 Nov. 25: Faces and phases-embodying the freedom of being

  1. Pingback: 2015 March 20: Faces and Phases book launch at UCT African Gender Institute | inkanyiso.org

  2. Pingback: 2015 March 25: Photos from Faces and Phases book launch @ AGI – UCT | inkanyiso.org

  3. Pingback: inkanyiso.org

  4. Pingback: 2015 March 25: Connections rekindled at the Cape Town reunion | inkanyiso.org

  5. Pingback: 2015 March 26: Four generations of black lesbians at the Faces and Phases book launch | inkanyiso.org

  6. Pingback: 2016 April 27: Re/Uniting with Faces and Phases on Freedom Day | inkanyiso.org

  7. Pingback: 2019 Feb. 18: Reflections Part 1: Go tell it to the mountain, it is violence in the ear | inkanyiso.org

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