2016 Feb. 6: Cleveland moves

by Lerato Dumse

When I saw a woman blowing smoke at a bus stop in Cleveland, my mind was shocked, for some reason it was like my first time seeing someone smoking. Then it hit, I don’t remember seeing anyone smoke in the 7 days I was there, it was a breath of fresh air from all the huffing and puffing I often see in the different places I visit. As the woman continued enjoying her smoke, we drove past on our way to the Airport to catch a flight to Toronto Canada, for the next agenda on the schedule.

I arrived in Cleveland, Ohio State in USA with Zanele Muholi on February 3. 2016. The Cleveland Museum of Art invited Muholi for its Contemporary Artists Lecture Series. The lecture was scheduled for Saturday, February 6 and a change of venue was necessary due to a higher volume of RSVPs than initially anticipated. As expected, we had our fare share of jet lag, having travelled more than 18 hours from Johannesburg.

However there was a schedule that had to be honoured. The first public engagement on February 4 was the screening of one of Muholi’s successful projects, her award-winning documentary Difficult Love. It was part of Sistah Sinema’s monthly screenings, with the Cleveland version hosted at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). Sistah Sinema is a space for films by queer women of color and was started in 2011 in Seattle, and continues to grow its footprint in other parts of the country. An upbeat Deidre McPherson who is the founding director of Sistah Sinema’s Cleveland chapter waited for us as we arrived at MOCA. She greeted us with a broad smile, firm handshake and what I sensed to be some nervousness; trying to make sure we are comfortable.

First to arrive was a mature gentleman, whom Deidre identified as a regular in the screenings. More people started arriving and picking seats ready to watch the doccie. The screening was ended by an engaging Q&A session with the artist. We concluded the cold night by going out for dinner at an Asian restaurant that served potions that can conquer any appetite.

2016 Feb. 6 Phyllis & Perry @CMA_6211

A final sound and visual check, interview with Phyllis Seven Harris who is the Executive Director of LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland as well as Student Critiques at Cleveland Institute of Art kept us busy the day before Muholi’s Public Lecture.

2016 Feb. 6 Barbara Tannenbaum introduces Muholi @CMA_5918
We arrived at Gartner Auditorium an hour before the talk was scheduled to start and finalised our setup and watched as the venue started filling up. Barbara Tannenbaum, curator of photography at Cleveland Museum of Art opened the event by introducing Muholi and made a special announcement about her [Muholi] being honored with a 2016 Infinity award. Muholi started her lecture by giving a brief historical background on South Africa. “This year marks twenty years since the SA Constitution was amended, ten years since same sex marriage was legalised and celebrate twenty-two years of democracy,” explained the activist. She acknowledged how homosexual rights are unfortunately not a reality for many talented African artists and activists who cant speak out due to repressive laws in other parts of the continent.

2016 Feb. 6 Muholi _ before & after_5899
After outlining the pillars behind her work which include Visual History/Archiving, Self-Representation, Collaborations, Participations and Collectivism Muholi started projecting her images, starting with her latest project, Somnyama Ngonyama. She informed the audience that she opted to “use her body as material,” as a way of taking a stance against racism in South Africa and other parts of the world. Moving on to other projects, the artivist shared how losing and continuing to lose friends forced her to document the LGBTI community.

After concluding the lecture Muholi was whisked to another part of the museum for a book signing and spend some one on one time with those who had questions.

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Previous lectures


2015 Dec. 8:  Cultural exchange from Johannesburg to Sardinia




2015 Oct. 14:  Brief visit to Amherst




2015 Oct. 9:  Muholi presents at Penny Stamps Distinguished Speakers Series



2015 Sept. 8:  Faces and Phases presented at Hasselblad Foundation




2015 Sept. 2:  When Faces Meet in Gothenburg, Sweden




2015 Aug. 23:  Muholi and Dumse present at Light Work AIR




2015 March 12:  Muholi addressed scholars at Brighton University, UK




2015 Feb. 27:  Announcement 
Public Lecture by Zanele Muholi @UCLAN, London




2014 July 18: Women’s Day Lecture at UFS




2014 June 17: Muholi’s Ryerson University (RIC) Talk




2014 Mar.21: Photo of the Day from Human Rights and LGBTI in Sub-Saharan Africa class




2014 Mar. 18: Sharing South African Queer Knowledge with students in America




2014 Mar.5: More than an activist




2014 Feb.4: Black Queer Born Frees in South Africa




2013 Nov. 4: From Market Photo Workshop to Bremen University





This entry was posted in Activated queer spaces, Activism, Activists Act, Affirmation, Allies, Alternative family, Appreciation, Art for Humanity, Art Is A Human Right, Art Solidarity, Artist Talk, Audience, Believe, Cleveland Museum of Art, Uncategorized, Writing is a Right and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to 2016 Feb. 6: Cleveland moves

  1. Pingback: 2016 May 21: Muholi presents at ICA’s Great Texts/ Big Questions | inkanyiso.org

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