Text by Lerato Dumse
Photos by Renee Mussai
Friends, allies, LGBT community members, artists, and activists filled up the London home of Renee Mussai for a Monday (13 April) evening get together, and to inscribe lesbian hate crime related text. Despite the invites being sent out on a short notice, collaboration and efficient communication between Renee and her friend Adelaide Bannerman, yielded positive results.
When Zanele Muholi and I arrived past 7pm, we found more than 10 people spread out in Renee’s kitchen, lounge and balcony, with their various drinks in hand and flowing conversations keeping them entertained. As we walked in and started introducing ourselves, the doorbell kept on ringing, signaling the arrival of more guests. The mood was good and relaxed and filled with laughter.
The cloth that brought everyone together that evening is part of Zanele Muholi’s Faces and Phases 2006-14 group exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery, which opened to the public on April 17. The exhibition features four nominees of the 2015 Deutsche Borse Photography Prize.
Renee’s kitchen table was laid out with delicious looking finger foods, and a chocolate cake baked especially for the gathering. Some of the attendees came with their children, and could not stay until late, as it was a school night.
So the cloth was laid down on the table in the lounge, everyone then moved to the kitchen for the evening’s opening remarks before text was distributed to allow for the writing process to begin.
Muholi explained to the eager group that their participation forms part of an intervention into the issues affecting mostly black lesbians. It was also explained that the cloth would be hung next to the black and portraits of lesbians and transgender people who are participants in the lifetime Faces and Phases series. Muholi gave a special mention to the veterans in the group including photographer’s Ingrid Pollard and Robert Taylor, thanking them for their visibility and the work they have done in the years that they have worked in the art industry.
The name, surname, age, and date of the murder of black South African lesbians dating back to 2004 formed part of the text. Testimonies from relatives of those who were murdered, as well as personal accounts from survivors were also included.
The relationships between the people in the house varied from long time friends, acquaintances and complete strangers who all pulled in the same direction to create the work of art. The group were split into smaller groups of three and four people, who kneeled in front of the table to transcribe the text given to them.
Sharing their thoughts and feelings about the process, Rob and Ingrid said inscribing the text was overwhelming and forces one to visualize the hate crime, and different from just reading about the incidents.
In her thank you note to Renee Mussai, Barby Asante wrote, “It was a really lovely evening and great to be involved in inscribing the stories for such an awesome project.”
While Gina Nembhard responded in her note by saying, “thank you for being such a welcoming and generous host!
Being able to support the work of Zanele and Lerato felt highly relevant and significant. Everybody was so warm and welcoming.”
Below is the list of names of the people who participated in the inscription and we are truly grateful for all that they’ve done for us:
Ain Bailey, Adelaide Bannerman, Christa Holka, Helen Cammock, Jude Michaels, Christine Eyene, Robert Taylor, Teresa Cisneros, Barby Asante, Lasana Shabazz, Atalanta Kernick, Debbie Smith, Valerie Etienne, Rob Gallagher, Gina Nembhard, Lovinsa Kavuma, Ingrid Pollard, Cherelle Sappleton and Renée Mussai.