by Mantis ‘Quing’ Mamabolo
Photos by Lerato Dumse & Zanele Muholi
Everyone walking past the iconic Johannesburg City Hall from their various hustles can feel the energy of what is going to be the tenth Feathers Awards. It is contagious as some stop for selfies with an empty red carpet as the guests of honour make their way to the event.
The Feather Awards is hosted in a building that has stood at the center of Johannesburg since 1914. This building that has stood as a solid structure of exclusion as it housed the Transvaal Government through Apartheid South Africa, is coloured pink with the defiance and audacity of a community that insists it needs to be celebrated.
As the guests begin to stream into the venue, the heat of the day is interrupted as the heavens open up and shower the event with rain. Although a welcomed relief to the heat, the rain spells disastrous to a red carpet that is laid out, outside City Hall. The official red carpet is cancelled but wherever a Queen, King or Quing may find themselves, there is always a red carpet moment. Cameras flash from all corners of the reception area, and cellphones are raised in strong, proud hands and master selfies are taken and Instagram stories are lit with the colour that fills this room.
The Brave Beauties, Zanele Muholi’s photographic participants for a series on Transwomen affectionately named the same; enter the room and the energy lifts considerably and everyone wants a photo as they are ushered to the dressing room on the top floor of this classic building. The room is hot with a single archaic air conditioner rumbles in one corner. The heat, no longer just attributed to the heatwave outside, but it is as if it comes from the beautiful people who fill the space, rehearsing their dance routines in between taking turns fleeting their eyebrows and costume changes. Touch ups done the Brave Beauties are ushered to the main hall. Easily identifiable as the hall that will hold a celebration of the LGBTIAQ+ community. The walls are tickled pink with elaborate lighting and the stage draped with the rainbow.
The room fills up with famous smiles and familiar laughter. Beautiful gowns drape the frames of Queens in attendance and the Kings and Quings are swaggered and dapper in their suits. The lights dim and a spectacular opening to the show begins. A variety of artists don the stage with the Soweto Gay Choir and a myriad of phenomenal dancers. A special mention to Kelly Khumalo who sings a rendition of ‘Natural Woman’ by Aretha Franklin flanked by The Brave Beauties in all of their elegance. The LGBTIAQ+ community being celebrated by those they celebrate on the daily through song and dance is spectacular and fitting for the electric entrance of Somizi Mhlongo, the master, and sometimes missus, of ceremonies for the night, in a beautifully embroidered blazer and enormous tutu skirt.
He proved to be the perfect host, with a delivery packed with humour and cheek, leaving guests in stitches as he made jibes at Bonang Mathebe’s tax woes, and questioned the sexuality of celebrities who claim to walk the straight and narrow, sexually speaking, when claiming that Nomzamo Mbatha could finally date a heterosexual man following her most recent break up with Maps Maponyane. A seasoned roaster, he was also able to interact with the audience, even leaving LaSizwe’s tutu slightly ruffled as Somizi picked on the rather handsome gentleman sitting next to him.
In between the grand laughter in the hall, a few tears are also shed as the organizers walk us through short videos they have prepared including a much welcomed conversation with the sitting President of the republic, President Cyril Ramaphosa, a touching tribute to Simon Nkoli by Constitutional Court Judge Edwin Cameron, as the Feather Awards debuted the Simon Nkoli Award for the first time.
Of the recipients of the awards a few also stand out. Steve and Lucy Letsike, the winners of the Couple of the Year Award dedicating their award to all those who live the idea of #LoveWins and standing as an example of what Black Queer love looks like. Sjava’s attire raises many an eyebrow as he accepts his award for Musician of the year. He wears a white robe and a box with the faces of those persecuted and killed for “being gay”. Remi Chuene, who took the award for Fag Hag, which extends to those who are absolute allies to the LGBTIAQ+ community implores us to be the voices for those who remain unheard in Tanzania and other places where those in the community continue to suffer under I humane practices and laws.
The home of Inkanyiso was especially touched as Yaya Mavundla accepted her award with The Brave Beauties standing strong and beautiful behind her. She speaks of the atrocities that Trans* community endures and the micro aggressions that filter even through so called professional spaces in our society. She stands tall, and proud of herself and all those who stay true to their identities in the face of adversity and for those who cannot unveil themselves but look up to the likes of her.
Truly a night filled with wonder and magic and love and hope for the future. Thami Kotlolo and his team has stayed true to their running theme and have succeeded in letting the world know that “We are here, We are queer, and We are here to stay.”
The community still has a long way to go to ensure the freedom of all things queer but through events like this, we are certainly heading in the right direction.
Congratulations to all those who won.
All Feather Awards 2018 Winners
Best Styled Male – Riky Rick
Best Styled Female – Ayanda Thabethe
Cutest Couple – Steve & Lucy Letsike
Sports Personality – Hlengiwe Buthelezi
Drama Queen – AKA & Matlapa
Hot Chick – Michelle Mosalakae
Hunk of the Year – Bohang Moeko
Media Award of the Year – GaySA Radio
Musician of the Year – Sjava
Role Model of the Year – Ntsupe Mohapi
Socialite of the Year – Yaya Mavundla
Social Media Personality of the Year – @Fistvoices
Diva Extraodinaire – Thembsie Matu
Simon Nkoli Award – Phumi Mtethwa
African Feather of the Year – Denis Nzioka
About the author, Mantis MAMABOLO
Mantis is a 30 year old and come from Benoni, in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng.
They identify as Trans* non binary and genderqueer specifically. Their preferred pronouns are they/them/theirs.
Their identity is queer. They graduated from the University of Cape Town, with a Bachelor of Commerce in Financial Accounting. They are a budding entrepreneur and social activist.
They are part of the driving team behind Black Womxn Healing Garden, which is a safe space for Black Womxn, inclusive of Coloured and Indian, on Facebook where without fear or judgment can express themselves and seek guidance and support in their own journeys to absolute healing.