In October, renowned photographer and visual activist, Zanele Muholi, celebrated the 10th anniversary of her most celebrated series, Faces and Phases, with an exhibition and party.
Compiled by: Blacklight writer
Images: Thembela Dick (Inkanyiso)
Since the inception of Faces and Phases, 10 years ago, it has become one of the most powerful LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Queer) movements from Africa.
Not only has it racked up countless accolades, but it’s created an imminent dialogue about the day to day issues black LGBTQ+ (mostly lesbians) face in South Africa.
The great impact it has on society was proved by the resounding attendance at the 10-year anniversary birthday bash hosted at Stevenson gallery, in Johannesburg.
Zanele could barely contain her excitement as the 100s of guest squashed up in the overcrowded room to celebrate the milestone.
“I wish my mother was here to see the beautiful people that are surrounding me, today,” she exclaimed.
The opening night seemed to be more of a manifesto, which aimed to declare a more clear and vigorous mandate about the fight for the recognition of the LGBTQ+ community in society
“We are tired of not being recognised. We are tired !”
“This is what happens when we come together man,” Zanele told Blacklight.
Blacklight: How do you feel about the milestone?
Zanele Muholi: People are saying that it’s a revolution. I don’t even know what to call it, all I know is that If South Africans don’t get the grip and have a clear understanding of our existence, angeke basayichana, kuyothatha iskhathi.
BL: What was your main intention when you started Faces and Phases?
ZM: My main goal was to share different phases of my people beyond just the gay pride space. I am happy that it has gotten to this point because we worked so hard to show that we too exist and we are also important.
From here, I promise you, we are going mainstream. We want to see our faces more in the mainstream media because we are beautiful and we deserve respect.
We are tired of sensationalism! We are tired of making headlines only when one of us is killed. We should also be celebrated for our amazing contribution to this country.
BL: What do you think this milestone means for the participants?
ZM: This is so important because we have created something like a family. It makes people feel like they belong and they are loved exactly as they are. There are many of us and this will be a great archive of LGBTQ+ people who exist today.
This is that kind of document that showcases the stories of the LGBTQ+ community of this generation. We know our story and we deserve to be given a platform to tell our stories.
In terms of the psychological effect that it has for my people, I fully understand that. Before I even started Faces and Phases, there was that irritating silence. That made me ask myself the important questions, like, ‘What are we waiting for?’ I mean we can’t wait for people to do it for us because it is us who are living this life.
It is us who know the psychological effects of being discriminated and not being recognised. It is us who walk around with the shame because we are made to feel like we don’t belong. Therefore, it is us who should take that pain and emotion and turn into something beautiful.
Luckily, because of the amazing support from friends I was able to create this. Hopefully, it will be a legacy that will continue even beyond us. There is a lot of work that we need to do but looking around me today, I can say we are headed in the right direction.
For more on Faces and Phases follow: Inkanyiso