by Katiso Kgope
It’s been days since we returned safely to Johannesburg from Durban. I must say it has been a phenomenal experience, one that I will never forget. I’m so grateful that I was selected to be part of this great opportunity, and I’m thankful to Zanele Muholi. We traveled to Durban from Johannesburg on the morning of December 30, and the road trip to Durban was very memorable. We took photos and video clips to document those moments; with our cameraman was Phumlani Mdlalose (who documented most of our moves), he is such a funny tall guy. It felt like I was part of a reality TV show, and we were all stars of the show.
The first stop when we arrived in Durban was the beach, a friend said “open the window, smell the clean fresh air that is Durban and listen to the ocean waves.” I must say Durban air is refreshingly calming; I couldn’t get enough of it. The first thing I wanted to do was to feel the sand under my feet while I run around, playing with water like a 4 year-old, but it wasn’t time yet. We then headed to Muholi’s hometown of Umlazi. the sections of Umlazi aren’t named liked the sections we usually use such as extension 2, or extension 3, they are called according to the alphabets but have a specific way to call them, such as kwa A, kwa B and kwa C, and we stayed kwa P.
Muholi’s home had very pleasant and welcoming people, who are Muholi’s family members. We first familiarised ourselves with the place and it was very lovely. We then went to the mall to buy groceries for our visit, and when we got back, Charmaine cooked up a storm, preparing a delicious home cooked meal that we all enjoyed. We then dealt with the sleeping arrangements, some slept on the bed, some on the floor and some on the couch. There were other places we could sleep at, but we wanted to be together so we slept in the same house.
We woke up the next morning and had a meeting to discuss everything we wanted to do while we were in Durban. Top of the list was the beach; we took everything we needed, before heading to there. On our way we picked up a girl called Luyanda Mzimela, I think Muholi planned to hook us up because we instantly clicked as if we’ve known each other for a very long time.
We immediately became best friends, we looked very much alike, and people thought we were twins. While driving to the beach I was so excited (apart from the fact that it wasnot as hot as I expected). It was kind of cloudy but that didn’t stop us from having fun at the beach and touring the different beaches such as North beach and South beach.
We were in the water for the whole day. We even had a mini beach shoot, nothing serious, but Zanele said in order to have a proper beach shoot, we need proper swimwear, so a proper beach shoot awaited us. Later that evening we returned toed Muholi’s home,
everyone had made their own plans. That all failed, so we ended up spending the night there. It was amazing; we danced, and laughed while meat was prepared in the braai.
Then came time for the countdown, moments away from 2015. I could just see the joy in everyone’s face, waiting for the clock to strike 00:00. When the New Year came in, Umlazi blossomed with beautiful fireworks that were a work of art, which is one of the highlights of the trip.
Then came the day of the beach photo shoot, the day I had been waiting for. We drove around town looking for props for the shoot and found beautiful hats along with underwear that complimented the swimsuits. While doing the last minute shopping for the shoot, we came across an old woman from Muholi’s church. I was shocked to find out that the elderly lady is a lesbian. I’ve never met an old lesbian or gay man before. It was an honour to meet her.
When we arrived at the beach it was so packed, since it was January 2. We struggled to find a spot to shoot, until we found a nice corner by the ocean at South beach. Luyanda was the first to do her shoot. Looking at her made me feel kind of intimidated to be in front of the camera, worse we were in a public space with everyone watching us.
I was really afraid to be in front of the camera because I’ve never done a photo shoot with an audience spectating. My turn to be in front of the camera came. I was afraid to take off my wrap around because wearing only a costume made me feel a bit naked for the first few shots. Muholi kept reminding me to be free and be myself, because above all, I don’t know these people and they don’t know me.
That gave me the confidence to give it my all and the more shots I took, the more confident I felt. The sun was so hot that while shooting, I felt like my make-up was running down my face. Luckily I had a helper to wipe my shiny face, and motivated me by making me smile. Above all it was an amazing day, couldn’t ask for anything more. A Top Shayela like Muholi would say, “This is how we do it”. I felt like a real model and when I walked around the beach, I was respected for the right reason for a change.
We then went to a braai in KwaMashu, were we met a lesbian’s family which surprisingly enough, also has a gay son and cousin. I felt comfortable in an inviting environment. We had so much fun (like we always do), we had a 7 colour meal, followed by having some fine wine then we all danced like there was no tomorrow, then we left and went home.
For our 2nd last day in Durban we went to book bus tickets and found that they were expensive. Even though I would have loved to catch a flight back home, we had to settle for a taxi. On the last day we woke up early, thinking we would leave in the morning. We all bathed, had breakfast, some were doing laundry and some were watching the news. Everyone was packed and ready to leave. The transport came, we loaded our luggage in the taxi, we said our final goodbyes and as hard is it was to leave, the vacation had finally ended.
If it was up to me I would have stayed for 3 weeks, but that was out of question. Those who remained behind took us to the taxi rand to catch a taxi back to Joburg. It was so hard to leave. I felt like I found home away from home, but we had to get back to reality.
Durban was fun, I would not have changed any single moment because every memory is memorable. I hope someday I could return for another visit to my new family that I found in Umlazi.