2015 Jan. 5: An ally shares her perspective

Book Review

When I started reading the book I had already received a review from my cousin. At first it was hard not to look and read it using the glasses that she provided. My wish was to read it from a point of view of someone who is homophobic, so for the first few days after receiving the book I didn’t read it. Instead I read online chat forums, of people who are homophobic and tried to get into their heads and adopt their thinking.

After many hours spent trying to be a homophobe I failed. When I started reading it I just read it as myself, someone who is not homophobic at all, someone who understands all too well.

I grew up as a tomboy and I still am in a lot of ways, at one point in my life I was even confused about my sexual orientation, it was because of what people said about me, categorizing me.

Though I am not attracted to women, I know the battle of identity, acceptance, and letting go of what people think with their titles and categories. Not because I relate to lesbians but because I relate to women (I am extremely passionate about women’s issues, I call myself a feminist without hesitation).

For me, this book is telling the story of women in our country, the story of every woman. SA women have moved from a political battle to an economic one. However; within that transition we have not moved from crippled ideas about women and how to relate to them, from thinking that a woman is an item that the African man possesses, that African women are weak and men are strong.

I strongly believe that if we could move from such diseased ideas and thoughts about women, then we would allow every woman to express her sexuality without prejudice and hostility (and I’ve come to realise that the hostility is mostly from other women). Lesbians and trans people need to be protected and given space to be themselves, not to be imprisoned by our opinions, categorization, and closed mind-set.

This is a good book; the photographs portray the emotions and how lesbians and trans people are feeling, they give the book more emotion. The stories have opened up my eyes to what lesbian women go through in our country, I thought I understood but I didn’t. I’m half way through the book and I’ll write the final review when I’m done.


Final review:

Out of five I give this book a three and a half.

Because I think this is a great project, we hardly see lesbians documented in our country. We don’t hear enough of their stories, the book has made the struggle that the LGBTI community is going through real to me.

I was not aware of the fear that most of them have just by expressing who they are. I have been angered by hate crimes and “corrective” rapes (what does that even mean?) but I realise that I nurse the anger in my heart till it goes to sleep. It hasn’t fueled me to start conversations about what is happening in the LGBTI community, it hasn’t made me speak up, but this book has influenced change in my heart and my mind-set (though I consider myself open minded I’ve chosen the things to open my mind to).

I love that the art of the book portrays the seriousness of the matters that the book is trying to bring to light, the anger that is brewing in the LGBTI community as all of us are quiet about their issues. We sweep things under the carpet when it comes to them, and we’re okay with a justice system that turns a blind eye to crimes the community experience.

We call this country free, we even shout proudly “Been there! Done that! Got the freedom t-shirt!” but are we truly free if some of us are still in oppression?
The thing about freedom is that we cannot use it as an umbrella term, we only received racial freedom (apparently) but we’re still oppressed in many other ways, we should always pursue freedom at all times in all the faculties of this country.

During a revolution in Egypt, Christians held hands and formed a protective circle around the Muslims while they were at mosque, protecting them from the military. So I believe as a country especially us heterosexuals and Christians, (I’ll say Christians because that’s all I know), like the Christians in Egypt, we need to protect the LGBTI community to be who they want to be, we don’t need to understand what the LGBTI community does, or be involved in their activities but we need to protect this freedom (their freedom as people and as sexual beings) that we’re always preaching.

We need to be able to also put our lives in danger, start thought provoking conversations (conversations that burn the hatred that homophobes have), and stand in the line of fire. We all have the responsibility of protecting each other’s freedom.

The negative thing about this book is that, for a project of such magnitude it is too superficial. Some of the people who shared their stories did not understand what the project was about, we get that the highlight of your life was you becoming a traditional healer and when your grandfather died but can we just stick to the topic please.

I would have liked to read about how the project came about, to read about the author, I would have liked to read stories that go deeper, stories that show us the struggle and victories of this LGBTI community. I would have liked to read more about and from the whole community not just transmen and butch lesbians (from gays, drag queens, more femme lesbians, bi people, and also from the families of people who were murdered because of hate crimes). You can’t start something so huge and be okay with mediocrity.

Share stories that matter. Photograph the whole LGBTI community and friends of the community. I feel that Mr Muholi was close-minded in his/her approach to the project, it could be so much more but s/he chose to focus on smaller details. I wish s/he would go deeper in the approach; this is a revolution, treat it as such!

About the author

Motshidisi Mabalane, 24, is from Dobsonville.
She is a nursing student who is passionate about Jesus.

Considers herself a feminist, a poetry lover, an open minded, opinionated introvert with extrovert tendencies and a love for people.



Previous links



2015 Jan. 11: “Recognizing faces that graced the walls…”




2014 Dec. 13: Faces and Phases invokes memories




2014 Dec. 12: Muholi presents Faces and Phases (2006-14) at home




2014 Dec. 1: “The portraits are no longer just pictures”




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




2014 Nov.24: Our photographs have been taken







This entry was posted in 20 Years of Democracy in SA, 8 years, Academics, Act, Acting, Activism, Activists, Activists Act, Another Approach Is Possible, Archived memories, Art Is A Human Right, Art is Queer, Art Solidarity, Article, Articles, Articulation, As we are, Author, Background, Beautiful faces, Beautiful people, Before You, Being, Being conscientized, Being heard, Black & White, Black bodies, Black lesbian activism, Black Lesbian Love, Black lesbian visibility, Book, Book Review, Community education, Community outreach, Consideration, Education, Faces and Phases (2006-14), Freedom, Loved, Magnitude, Motshidisi Mabalane, Oppression, Previous links, Protecting, Published by Steidl, Reviewers, She, Speaking for ourselves, Statement, Success, Supporting each other, Texts, Textualizing Our Own Lives, Time, Timing, together, Together we can, Togetherness, Visual Arts, Visual democracy, Visual diaries, Visual historical initiative, Visual history, Visual history is a Right not a luxury, Visual Language, Visual Power, Visual sense, Visual Voices, Visualizing our lives, Visualizing public spaces, Visuals, We Are You, We Care, We love each other, We love photographs, We Love Photography, Womyn, Words, Writing is a Right and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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