Text by Levinia Pienaar
Photos by Lindeka Qampi
I was fortunate enough to attend the opening of Mina/Meg, a feminist, artist, activist and queer exhibition. This ground breaking event took place at the Kulturhistorisk Museum in Oslo, Norway on Saturday 18 June 2016.
The day started with a talk at Eldorado bookstore, which serves as this year’s Oslo Pride House. The topic was on Lesbian History and Identity in which Zanele Muholi and Sofia Hultin discussed their art projects. Hultin’s I’m Every Lesbian – Oslo, is a walking tour of the city, based on interviews with local LGBTQ residents as part of the off-site curatorial project Munchmuseet on the Move.
Photographer and visual activist Muholi presented We Live in Fear (2013) documentary and some photos featuring in exhibition Mina/Meg – A Feminist, Artist and Activist Queer exhibition, which opened at Historical Museum (just after the talk) curated by Kunstplass  ‘s Henriette Stensdal and Inkanyiso’s Lerato Dumse (South Africa).
Presentations were an awesome experience. It made me wonder just what South Africans would say about their citizens occupying spaces of this nature and such platforms. What would SA and Africa say about “their own” who speak out for minorities who are being ridiculed, beaten, raped, abused, killed and ignored just for being who they are, without harming anyone around them?
Just because they LOVE differently than the “norm”, whatever society perceives that to be. When it comes to minority and sexuality issues, both the visual and oral must be presented and the agenda must be pushed forward at all levels. Schools including Primary, High and Tertiary institutions must address these topics. At Old Age Homes so the elderly can understand the grandchildren they sometimes have to raise. At hospitals so parents can understand more after giving birth to their children who might be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Intersex. As much as I don’t like the term “being different”, when one looks at the bigger picture, society still sees the LGBTIQ and other community as “different”.
If I could tell some people in SA about the spaces that black South Africans occupied in Oslo they would never believe me!!!
Before the talk ended a young woman asked the question, “how long will it take for us not to have to identify ourselves as lesbian, gay, transgender, etc.?” I thought to myself, “how long did it take for us as South Africans before we were able to complete forms without having to endorse our race? Not having to tick a box declaring if you are White, Black, Indian or Coloured. I guess it will take a long time before we don’t need to make our existence and sexuality known.
After the talk we made our way to the Kulturhistorisk Museum where eleven (11) artists from eight (8) countries – Oslo, South Africa, Sudan, Burma, Taiwan, Rwanda, Uganda, Russia and three (3) continents – Africa, Asia and Europe displayed their art. While everybody was still trying to set up and get things ready, I had a chat with a man. He told me about his history and how he eventually came out to himself and his family about seven years ago. That same grown up man who is a grand father is still in pain. Since I didn’t judge him, he felt ok to talk to me about it. His story is just one of many others. It reminded me of a funeral I attended in Durban South Africa not so long ago. A very old lesbian couple called me over to them and told me some stories about the 1970’s and 1980’s in their lives. The sad thing was- it was so inspiring yet undocumented.
Muholi said that we have to document. We must keep what we do today and who we are and what we stand for, for years to come.
If only the stories of that old lesbian couple, or the story of that man in the museum was documented for so many others to reflect on or read in years to come. If only their stories were recorded.
We should not only record and archive stories, these stories should reach those who need to read it, relate to it, understand it, and live it. We cannot remain silent for all that is happening around us. We cannot keep silent for what is happening even within us while we do and say nothing about it. We have to speak up. This time it must be about Who I am. Who you are? What you are and What I am.
The program at the Museum was very intense, personal and positively so. South African dancer, Llewellyn Mnguni, was invited by Zanele Muholi to “interpret” her work in the form of dance. He took everybody to a place very deep inside all of us. There was no music – yet it was so “LOUD”.
Seeing the coffin created by one of the artists Ahmad Umar took me back to some black lesbian funerals I attended in South Africa. Maybe even to one of the few memorial services I attended of black lesbians who got killed for being just that!!!
Black lesbians. Suddenly it became so real for me, so valid, so “close to home”. Women who were raped to “cure” them from being lesbians. The coffin also symbolized to me a sense of dignity, self worth, being, invasion, and not just the loss of life, as we know it. What if I can’t live my life as a lesbian?
I would die also.
Another artist whose work is exhibited in the Mina/Meg show is Lindeka Qampi. She presented her poem titled “Inside my heart”, she shares about going to her mother’s grave and telling her stories. What hurts her and what is going on in her life and mind. Some of us still have the chance to tell out stories to our Moms and our Grannies…
Even in the context of discovering yourself, coming out to yourself and your Mom and family. Let’s not wait till it’s too late….
Our stories need to be told by us. All those who need it and those who come after us must read these stories.