January 19, 2015 – Reported by Rachel Cook, GayNewsNetwork – South African photographer and activist is presenting her latest work Visual Activism as part of Melbourne’s Midsumma Festival. Her photographic exhibitions on black female sexualities and genders in Africa has garnered world wide acclaim.
She spent more than three years researching and documenting hate crimes in order to bring the realities of ‘curative rape’, assault, HIV and brutal murders of black lesbians to public attention.
Rachel Cook spoke to Muholi when she was last in Australia about her work and what life is like for black lesbians in South Africa.
Going back to the beginning, how did it all start, how did you become a photographer? I
I was born in Durban, South Africa, in the 70s, when apartheid was very much alive and thriving. Generally, black people were seldom included in some spaces. There was probably no space for black lesbians or any gay people generally. When I reached puberty I discovered that I was a lesbian growing up in the township. I also realised that within that space there were no visual materials, photographs, videos, documentaries that spoke to me as a black lesbian. I wanted to change that so that those that come after me will not feel the bewilderment that I felt.
I decided to breach that gap by capturing images of who the black lesbians were, how we interacted and how we lived. My passion is to create a visual reference library, if you may, of black lesbians that can be accessed by future generations who will come after me and also those who are interested in learning about our current struggles and histories. I am not just doing this for South Africans, I am doing it for the entire world to take note of our existence and resistance.
My work is like music: you may not speak the language that it is sung in, but you know when it is speaking to your heart. Music is universal and speaks in a universal language. I want my work to have the same effect beyond these borders….interview continues below…