by: Lindiwe Dhlamini
Professor/Sir Zanele Muholi’s longstanding photographic project known as; Faces and Phases (F&P)celebrates thirteen years in existence. Some of the faces have faded with the phases and some of those still alive were in attendance. On the 19th of July Muholi celebrated their birthday as the installations were taking place for what was termed ‘mini LGBTIAQ+ Pride’ taking place on the 20thJuly 2019 in Parktown North, Johannesburg at the Stevenson Gallery.
Faces and Phases is renowned for the documentation of Black African lesbians and transgender men and woman from various countries. The images have been exhibited in over 40 countries since its inception. In 2014, a second book was published as a literary archive to preserve a rich part of our history that is often ignored or recognized when attacked, bullied and ridiculed. Thus, F&P is a very important historical archive for future generations to know, see and read about these faces and the phases in their lives.
Inkanyiso crew organized for the participants to be in attendance, people from Eastern Cape, Durban, Cape Town, Gauteng and other parts of the world graced the place with their presence. It was lovely to see people taking selfies next to their images displayed on the wall, for some of them it was their first time as F&P participants. People looked free, happy and filled with pride which was my highlight of the day. The performances that took place were amazing and as Muholi took the stage to give a speech, they did not spare us their comedic side.
The day before the event I had the pleasure of interviewing some of the participants to check which phases in their lives they were in and how has it been since their images were first taken. I cannot emphasize how proud it made me to learn that education and acquiring qualifications has been a phase they have passed or are currently in. It is important to celebrate LGBTIAQ+ success because mainstream media airs the broken, raped and murdered phases of our stories and very seldom our victories and achievements.
Speaking and meeting some of the faces only I had seen in the book and written about in my academic papers really warmed my heart. Hearing some of their stories and seeing them rejoice gave me hope that maybe things really do get better with time. People looked beautiful, their outfits and hair were on point you can tell it was a very well planned affair. Inkanyiso and Stevenson Gallery teams have worked tirelessly for the success of the event and the results were outstanding. Everything was well taken care of from the wonderfully curated and installed show to the great tasting food and refreshments provided.
It was a bit of a nightmare to find parking space since the gallery is situated in a very busy road and we had to park there but, the care and security was reassuring. There were mini bus taxis organized to make sure people returned home safe and for those who were from outside of Gauteng province hotels and guest houses were secured. For some of the people it was their first time in Johannesburg and you could see and feel the excitement and I hope they enjoyed themselves. The festivities of the day ended with a few after parties in Maboneng, Braamfontein and Melville while others chose to chill at the hotel.
Once again Prof/Sir Muholi had outdone themselves with a beautiful show and while it was Muholi’s birthday weekend they chose to spend it with people. A leader who acknowledges that umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu and practices that philosophy selflessly. The show is opened till 30 August 2019 and I encourage people to go and see it, it really will make you appreciate the beauty of our people on the walls a view I wish to see for years to come.