by Nonkululeko Dube
I was invited to document a dinner gathering on August 1st 2019. It was hosted in Parktown North, Johannesburg, by David Lewis-Peart who lives in Toronto, Canada. He was invited to South Africa by Prof/Sir Zanele Muholi for Faces and Phases 13 exhibition, which took place at Stevenson Gallery in Parktown North on the 20th of July 2019. Few minutes after I arrived at David’s place, his guests also started to arrive. These were not just any guests; they were intellectual black queer men.
While waiting for everyone else who was still on their way they opened a bottle of wine. And very interesting conversations emerged, like when someone asked what everyone thought on the issue of being “post-gay” meaning is the public seeing being gay as being equally valid forms of human expression. Right there and then I knew for certain they are going to need more wine. In my own head I thought it is about damn time that the public stop worrying about people’s sexualities, when the whole world is faced with paedophilia and cumulative rape cases. But this was not my place to be engaging my thoughts to the conversation. After all David has a good reason for wanting only black queer men at this gathering; I just happened to be a photographer in the space.
I have never been in a space where black men are actually allowed to show their sensitivity to anything. Being a girl that was raised by her grandparents in a rural area, where young men are taught to be strong. We even have a saying in IsiZulu that says “Indoda ayikhali” (Men don’t cry), so this gathering was an eye opener for me in actual fact. Eventually everyone arrived and they were talking about how they came out as gay men in their communities. What I realised is that okay fine these people here in this space are coming from different backgrounds but they relate with each other’s stories. David’s friend brought food, it was too spicy and others complained but it smelled really nice and we could not wait to dig in already. We had to wait for Welcome Lishivha who had gone back to his house to fetch a projector and a speaker, since we were going to watch a film later that night.
I remember this one time they were talking about the gay community, one of the guests said they have chosen to distance themselves from the community in order to find their individual self. Because of so many stereotypes on black gay men and expectations on how gay black men should carry themselves. Especially with the common people on social media and television who “claim” to be representing gay black men. And all they doing is just putting standards that other gay black men do not relate with. And they say the gay community always pretends like all gay men are one, whereas they cannot even relate to a gay white man and when they are together with them, they never fit in nor feel part of the community. But also acknowledging the privilege that they have as professionals compared to being a broke gay person in South Africa.
Welcome finally came back and we all started dishing up and eating. They were officially running out of wine but at least at this point there was still one sealed bottle. After eating I asked everyone to move from the dinning area to a sitting room, where I took a group portrait. Then David told us that he has been working on this documentary in Canada. The one we were about to watch the screening of. Its about Gay men in Canada opening up about their sexual life and intimacy. The film was amazing, everyone in the room loved it and David announced that he would actually like to make the same documentary with every gay man that was at the dinner gathering. People were really excited and they wanted myself and David to start the documentary that very same night, unfortunately he told them that it was very late and I had to go to school the next morning. But I really enjoyed every moment with those guys. It felt like we had known each other for years, when I had just met most of them that very same night.
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