by Kopano Sibeko
“I used to be lesbian, but now my final words are on a tombstone, because he showed me the power of a man. I could never love that, so I killed myself because I knew I could never stand corrected”.
As I read that piece by Andiswa Dlamini, I imagined all the faces uttering those phases of their lives. I realized how oblivious we would be to the pain of each individual because we would not know how they look like. We would not know of their existence. And lastly we would not know their realities. That poem tells a tale of the ever so aging story of a black lesbian, yet in all its growth, it still remains the same. Faces and Phases has since 2006, demonstrated these realities.
Zanele Muholi’s Faces and Phases 2006-14 embodies so much benevolence, it captures the ironic personification of freedom, as she’s been assumed to exist in South Africa.
The book tells us short stories of black lesbians and Trans-men across the globe, exemplifying that as far apart as their worlds may seem, there’s consistency in the existence of sexual orientation and gender expression.
Faces and Phases 2006-14 shares with us the beauty and talents of lesbian women and trans(wo)men coupled with the political injustices that the world has fed us. Muholi’s work is not only historic, but very revolutionary in recording images that will prove our existence, when there’s a new world order.
Muholi’s work depicts and projects the struggles that we as homosexual women and trans individuals have faced (still face) and in the same breath shows the milestones we have overcome and all our achievements amidst all the pain. Muholi’s book shows that breaking the chains of homophobia and transphobia, is not an event, it’s a process.
In this book, Muholi demonstrates different kinds of activism, from visual, poetical to artistic. This has allowed participants to be themselves and echo the voices within themselves that the world has always silenced.
On a light note, I flipped through the book and laughed on all the memories I’ve made with some of the faces in this book (ex’s and friends). Personally, this book will be treated as an album to show my children and their children some of the people that have channelled my growth.
“They might swear at us as much as they want to, beat us up, rape us and murder us, but they won’t get our souls. Our inner beauty will remain and it will be expressed in every special way”. In the end it is in these words by Pearl Mbali Zulu where you see the artistry in volumes of what Muholi has conceived.
Previous Faces and Phases (2006-2014) book reviews