by Mercury Duma
A day of triumph and celebration was held at the Stevenson Art Gallery in Parktown North, Johannesburg on the 20th of July 2019.
Rainbow colours covered the the fence leading up to the exhibition. Different outfits, different personalities and different individuals from all walks of life brought together to rejoice and celebrate the 13th instalment of Faces and Phases.
Cold weather took centre stage during the proceedings of the day. Though there was sunlight brightening up the day but the warmth of it provided a brief relief during the day. This didn’t deter people from coming out in their numbers. The weather was also a symbol of the cold struggles queer people face everyday because of their sexuality and gender identity.
With each hour passing more and more people flocked into the gallery excited to see the black and white portraits in the gallery. This is no ordinary exhibition as it serves a raw and distinctive measure to create more black queer visibility. The portraits were taken by Professor Zanele Muholi, portraits with an in-depth look at black queer people across South Africa.
The Faces and Phases participants captured are either lesbian, transgender men and women and gender non-conforming individuals. Smiles and excitement filled the room with each participant seeing their portrait on the wall. You could tell how much it meant for them to have their portraits in the exhibition.
For some of the participants seeing their portraits in the exhibition triggered them to have a moment of reflection of how far they have come, the trials and tribulations they have gone through.
I had the pleasure of speaking to Cecil and Derek Schrier from San Francisco, United States of America during the exhibition viewing. They spoke highly about the work of Professor Zanele Muholi. “ We have two images which my husband has bought from Zanele, we really love her work.” Said Cecil Schrier.
The exhibition was graced with various performers each leaving a piece of themselves on stage to signify the love and celebratory mood the exhibition held throughout the day. It is without a doubt how much talent LGBTIA+ individuals are.
When Professor Zanele Muholi went on stage to deliver a key note address, she started with one of her signature songs that resonate with every LGBTIA+ individuals zizojika izinto meaning things will turn around in time but for now we shall continue the fight for equality.
In her address she thanked everyone for coming to the exhibition and celebrating this memorial day, which is significant in the queer community. She gave a special thanks to all the Faces and Phases 13 participants and lastly thanked the Stevenson Art Gallery for opening doors to hold the exhibition.
A moment of silence was observed for all the hardships queer individuals have gone through in their lives. Muholi also urged everyone to work hard, respect each other and fend for themselves.
Before finishing the address Muholi reassured everyone that the Faces and Phases series is continuing and more and more participants are going to be part of the series. She said in her final words “today we are making history.” As the day descendent to an end , it was evident to everyone that history has been made and the work of black queer visibility is well ahead of time.