Muzane’s Weblog

Transiting with Gabi Ngcobo
August 24, 2009, 9:23 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized
July 31, 2009 01:04PMT

 By Obidike Okafor


 The Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Yaba, played host to another interesting guest in the person of South African curator, Gabi Ngcobo. Ngcobo’s talk, titled “Transitions” was centred around African masculinity and the arts from a South African perspective.

In the event, the discourse touched on the inner workings of the Nigerian arts sector; and disturbing issues that lurk in the underbelly, came to fore.

Sponsored by the Commonwealth Foundation, the programme began with a click of the projector, as Ngcobo showed pieces by South African artists whose works are concerned with the issues of sexuality, masculinity and identity. With works from Anton Kannemeyer (“Black Dick” (2007)) to Lawrence Lemaoana and Zanele Muholi (who earlier in the year participated in the “Like A Virgin” exhibition held at the CCA).

Ngcobo took the audience through intriguing works like Lemaoana’s “Last Line of Defence,” a digital print that shows five men wearing football uniforms in a line, describing the experience of a black man entering rugby in South Africa, a sport dominated by white men.

In “Fortune Tellers,” the artist’s shows an outline of South African president, Jacob Zuma, in his famous dance stance; tarot card motifs used by fortune tellers are superimposed on the president’s figure. The image is stiched onto an indigenous South African cloth, the Kanga.

The work examines a statement believed to have been made by Zuma during his infamous rape case, to the effect that his accuser wore a Kanga – which he took to mean that she wanted to have sex.

In the case of Zanele Muholi, her decision to take pictures of people with whom she shares a sexual orientation (the gay community) was sparked by the fact that Europeans were interested in South African sexuality and were doing PhDs on the subject. “Faces and Phases” (2007-2008) shows the transition of a lesbian who explores her masculinity. “Miss D’vine” shows pictures of a transsexual -a man dressed up as a woman.

Commenting on MUholi’s collection, Ngcobo said, “In the past when a child is born , you say ‘It’s a boy’ or ‘it’s a girl ‘ – but nowadays you don’t know the sexuality that one chooses as they grow.” The curator believes that since sexuality emerges from the body, the body is the means of communication.

In “Not Butch But My Legs Are” (2005), Muholi focuses on her own hairy legs. Ngcobo was quick to point out that, despite the considerable sexual diversity in South African society, there are still hate crimes against people whose sexual preferences were seen as queer.

They endure social castration and parents disown their children for being gay. Ngcobo also noted that, apart from Tracey Rose and Zanele Muholi, most of the artists whose works formed the focus of the talk, are in their twenties.

Answering a question about the visibility of South African arts, Ngcobo said, “We use to rely on our representation in the West, but with places in Douala, Casablanca and Alexandria, the shift is coming back to Africa.”

Relating the talk to the Nigerian environment, the audience agreed that the country is a very conservative society. The audience -largely made up of artists, art critics and writers -agreed that galleries and the public might not appreciate a focus of challenging sexualities.

Issues raised included: the extent to which galleries determine what the artists produce; the capacity of art to effect change in society; and the fact that artists paint mostly for money.

Artistic director of the CCA, Bisi Silva, was not convinced that there are enough artists creating works that address topical issues. She added that, even when there are artists like that, there are not interesting, diverse material to work with.

“Where are the performance artists, the video artists” she asked. A member of the audience observed that an artist must have overfed and even galleries most have overfed, before any will either paint or sell such works that have a provocative edge, like some of those displayed in ‘Transitions’. Jelili Atiku suggested that “The artist has to survive first. That’s how it is.”

Some artists present complained of an inconducive environment for the exploration of talents. However, Sylvester Ogbechie, a US-based art historian, told the artists, “There are options. There is obviously a significant short sight… You’re neglecting the ability to get out from local to global. You have to take risks.” Continuing, he said, “Nobody takes the artist seriously.

“You have access to do good works.” The lack of an enabling environment, he insisted, “Is not an excuse.”

Ngcobo buttressed the importance of socially relevant art. She added that there was no real visual history of people with an alternative lifestyles in South Africa until Zanele Muholi, a lesbian, began focusing on others like her. In so doing, she has become one of the most important artists in South Africa, all in four short years.

The discussion brought to bear the importance of making art that is relevant, and not just painting a beautiful work. ‘Transitions’ also brought many to the realisation that the time has come for artists to stop finding excuses because the possibilities are endless.

On a lighter note Ngcobo was asked what the South African artists were planning towards World Cup in 2010. She said the organisers were more interested in providing infrastructure, but quickly added that the World Cup presents the opportunity for artists to brand themselves. “It is an opportunity to ask a lot of questions,” she said.





January 18, 2009, 5:36 am
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. arts@MIT Announcement Zanele Muholi

    Zanele Muholi, a South African photographer and video artist who documents black lesbian and trans people in the townships will be the 2009 Ida Ely Rubin – 25k – Cached – Similar pages –    



MIT Office of the Arts: Student and Artist-and-Residence Programs
January 16, 2009, 12:56 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Ida Ely Rubin Residency

The Ida Ely Rubin Residency was established at MIT through the generosity of Ida Ely Rubin’s friend, Mrs. Eugene McDermott. Mrs. McDermott donated the endowment in 1998 and asked that it be named for Mrs. Rubin (1923-2008). The residency has brought renowned visual artists to MIT to present public lectures and collaborate with students in free programs.

Rubin Residency Recipients, 2008-2009

Ana Maria Tavares with grad students at the Fall 2008 Grad Arts Forum

Ana Maria Tavares, Sao Paulo-based Visual Artist
November 12-26, 2008
Press Release
Tech Talk Story
Boston Banner Story

February 23-March 6, 2009


Feb 25, 2009 – Feb 25, 2009  

Lecture: “Is’khathi” 
 Talk by Ida Ely Rubin Artist-in-Residence (MIT):  
South African photographer and video artist Zanele Muholi, 
who documents  black lesbian and trans people in the townships. 

  Broad Institute Auditorium,
  Room NE30, 7 Cambridge Center,  
  Cambridge, 617-253-5351. 7pm.

Indawo Yami – Thru Camera Lenses (stories from Cape Town)
January 12, 2009, 8:03 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags:


A group of young lesbians particularly from the disadvantaged communities in Cape Town, SA are telling their own stories through the lenses of a camera. Most of them are coming from the poverty stricken areas like Gugulethu and Nyanga and where the unemployment is very high. And they’ve never set a finger on a camera in their entire life and they were very fascinated by it.

Zanele Muholi is a well known and established black African lesbian photographer and she’s been taking pictures for many years. Her wonderful work has been shown in various galleries like Le Case d’Arte Gallery, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.

She recently initiated a project called “Indawo Yami – Thru Camera Lenses” based in Cape Town. In her project she is training 7 young women from the Gugulethu & Inyanga townships. The women are being introduced to camera techniques and the importance of taking pictures and what does it mean to them. The project is part of Zanele’s community work which started in 2004 in Johannesburg to enhance the participant’s self-esteem and their participation in social development. Since the start of the project in 2004 Zanele has trained some 20 women.

She said she also saw a dire need to share her camera skills with these forgotten and less fortunate young souls- who will probably never be listed as women who make histories in our democratic South Africa. This month, October is a photography month here in Cape and she’s visiting some galleries and talking about her work. While she was there she was interviewed by Martha Qumba(MQ)

MQ: Why did you initiate this project?

ZM:”In September I attended Out in Africa Gay & Lesbian festival at the Waterfront in Cape Town and I saw these youngsters enjoying their drinks. I asked some of them what were they doing and they said nothing. I told them that I want teach them photographic skills in their townships. They agreed. I visited their homes to explain and talk about other big events (like soccer) that were taking place at a local and international level.”

MQ: Why did you particularly choose these young women?

ZM: “Black lesbian’s herstory has been recorded or written by other people. There’s nothing on young African lesbians. They need to do – with the help of experts wherever necessary – through non exploitative mentorship. I’m very pleased to share my skills with them and if not me who else can do it? We’ve some African lesbians who are working and educated. And where are they? Are they helping these poor kids? I don’t know.”

“These young women are only remembered when there’s picketing and toyi toying. It’s high time for them to tell their own stories by using a camera. This is “herstory” in making. Some of them think that drinking and smoking is good. We are the role models and they must look up to us.”

MQ: What do they actually do in this project?

MZ: “They take pictures of what’s happening and interesting in their communities. They must understand taking pictures is recording the history. I want to have an exhibition of their pictures just to encourage other youngsters as well. We also visit r places like boardroom in certain offices Cape Town. They must have a feeling of it.”

MQ: Why did you choose boardrooms in all places?

MZ: “” I used to be a cleaner at the bank. Every time I cleaned there I used to picture my mom doing the same and not being part of it. That’s when I understood how painful it was to be a cleaner and be excluded from the rest. They don’t know what’s a boardroom and some of them have never set their feet there. These youngsters are from areas where opportunists are scarce.Some of them think their sexual orientation is the most important thing in life. They don’t worry about other things. I don’t blame them. They need people like us to show them the way. I know it’s difficult when one’s not educated and opportunities are slim. One’s sexuality could become a hindrance if one’s uneducated and with no skills to.”

MQ: Did you choose any particular boardrooms?

MZ: “Yes certainly. We went to boardrooms where they were gay people. We first went to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). I wanted them to market themselves and tell their own stories not me. I noticed that some couldn’t express in English and they were comfortable in Xhosa. When they spoke Xhosa people at IGLHRC couldn’t understand them as well. They must understand how do these young women felt when they were speaking the English? Can you see what role does your language play? This is what I’m talking about-exposure.

MQ: What do you say about education to these guys?

MZ: “These black queer youth need to have education and be assisted with finance and morale support in order for them to realize their dreams in life. With education there’re many opportunities in life.”

Hear what some of these young women have to say about the project:

Bellinda Nwabisa Ndandani,

“I’m 23 years old and I grew up in Gugulethu and I live with my mom and my three brothers. I’m a soccer player and I started playing when I was young. I played for Winnie Football Club in Gugulethu, one of the famous soccer women’s club in Gugulethu. My greatest dream is to play for Banyana Banyana.”

“I was very stout and I used to drink alcohol and smoke cigarette but now I’m no longer smoking. This project has changed me and my family is very happy to see me being involved. Now I’m doing positive things and I want to go back to school next year and finish my matric.”

“It was my first time touching a camera and I couldn’t even hold. I didn’t know the importance of it. Now I know and I’m becoming very confident and attached to it. I never knew that taking pictures is to tell a story. Now I can see many interesting stories that I didn’t know before. I used not to give a damn about what’s happening in my area, now I know. I’ve another eye now.”

“I’m happy to be part of my own history and other people have been writing about our history. It’s my first time to set my foot in a boardroom and I felt great and excited about it. I thought a boardroom is only for educated and bourgeoisie people. The mood and the atmosphere were totally different. I was in another space,” she laughs.

Nolwando Matshoba

“I’m 18 and I grew up in Gugulethu. I live with my mom and my younger sister. My parents are divorced. I left school in 2006 in grade 10 because of my parents’ divorce. It traumatized me. I couldn’t concentrate on my books. I’m a camera first timer. At first I was shaking and scared. Zanele taught me and now I’m fine. I walk around and taking pictures in my area. I take pictures of people socializing. There’s hostel here in Gugulethu called “Khikhi” and men who are from the Eastern Cape used to stay there. Also there’s a big braai place and most people like it. I’m happy to record our history.”

“My dream is to go back to school, finish her matric and go to College or Varsity. I want to become a businesswoman and own a business. My first time in a boardroom and I used to see it on TV. I felt like a better person and encouraged.

Millicent Gaika

I’m 29, I grew up in Gugulethu. I live with my aunt and grandma. My mom died while I was young and my granny looked after me.

I started playing a street soccer at the age of 14 with other boys in Tsakane, Johannesburg. I became very hooked with it till today. I played for Batshana FC and for Winnie FC for many years and now I play for Sizwe Football Club also based in Gugulethu.

“I used to take pictures just for fun not involved in a project like this. This project is great and it gives an opportunity to tell my own story. We don’t have any recorded material about young black lesbians and I think it’s a good thing. I wish I can have my own camera and take pictures everyday.”

“It was nice to be in a boardroom and to speak and listen to successful people. When I take pictures I look at things that are important to the people. I took Nyanga Junction it’s the first shopping centre in Gugulethu and most people make use of it.”

Eulander Koester,

I grew up in Gugulethu and I live my grandma. I’m an artist and a soccer player. I started playing soccer in 2003 in Ladies Club in Gugulethu. Taking pictures has taught me a lot of things like recording one history. I never knew these things that are happening in our areas. I took a picture of two people fighting here in my area. I felt confident afterwards. Now I feel good about myself and I want to carry on doing this. It’s exciting. I wish Zanele can stay in Cape Town forever. I want my own camera now.’

In their boardroom field trip they were introduced to various people like Thobeka Phongoma, Viola May and Jacqueline Tamri. They were allowed to express themselves in their own language.

Jacqueline is a field worker and she’s been working with grassroots women for 25 years. She told they must do what inspires them in life.

Thobeka and Viola work for the Economic Development & Tourism Department, local government in Cape Town.

TP welcomed them and she asked them some questions regarding themselves.

She indicated that life’s not easy and they have to have dreams in life. She told her about her challenges and her dreams in life. She encouraged them to keep on dreaming and not waver.

These soccer players participated in the friendly match for the Federation of Gay Games delegates after an annual meeting held at Ritz Hotel, Cape Town a week ago and they are looking forward to participate at the 2010 Cologne Gay Games, if not the 2009 World Outgames, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Report and interview by Martha Qumba


Refusing to fade in obscurity
November 2, 2008, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

on October 28, 2008 

Category: Township JiveSocial MovementsSouth AfricaSportLGBTI

It has been two months since our only outspoken lesbian soccer team, the Chosen Few, came back from winning bronze at the International Gay & Lesbian Football Association (IGLFA) tournament in London. This was the team’s second bronze medal after winning at the Gay Games Chicago in 2006. Chosen Few is making African herstory for all of us.

Fast forward now to last Wednesday, October 22, when the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) held their annual international meeting in Africa’s pinkest city: Cape Town, South Africa. The meeting, which was organized at the Ritz Hotel in Sea Point, took place one day after the 2006 brutal murder of Zoliswa Nkonyana finally went to court in Khayelitsha township, the same place where the 19-year-old lesbian was stabbed, stoned and beaten to death by a group of men for being a female homosexual. Attending both the court hearing in Khayelitsha and the FGG meeting in Sea Point, the racialized and classed dichotomy between grassroots community organizing and international queer membership strikes me yet again. At the Khayelitsha Magistrate Court, it was our black sisters who took the risk of outing themselves to violent homophobes by protesting against hate crimes and the murder of a young lesbian. But these very same women who continue the struggle for social justice and human rights in South Africa were conspicuously absent from the FGG guest and participant list.
[Read more…]

Using Public Sphere & New Media for activism
June 16, 2008, 4:22 pm
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My final New Media project will focus on decolonizing spaces, privatized spaces. I want to reclaim my identity as a photographer/ visual activist/artist from the global South, reclaim my own work on sexuality politics by taking existing materials from various websites, internet based content and other textual sources –other art-writers, journalists, scholars based mostly in the global North. By global North, I do not just mean a geographic space a in Europe or North America, but rather I mean global North as in a social space, one that is linked as much to the history of colonialism as it is to class. The ‘North’, the ‘West’, the owners live as much in spaces in the global South as the global South lives in marginalized, de-centered, peripheral spaces in the North. I intend to use: google search, blog,,,, etc. as a link to all these sources, texts and pages into one site ( for easy access to any user who searches for my name or work online.

The purpose of the project is to show how media is not just a tool to disseminate information, but it is also a tool that restricts information based on various ownerships: of a hegemonic voice, of technology, of property, of resources like education. In a globalized world we are forced to be dependent on technologies as people move between states and communities to survive. This is nothing new since it was the new technologies of ship-building that allowed European slave traders to deport millions of enslaved Africans to the New World. And yet communication between families and communities was impossible because information was scattered, controlled by the powerful and developed for the uses of oppression and exploitation, and not for liberation. I would like to decolonize the technologies of the internet, of the virtual world, of communication and bring it back into collective and public hands.

For those who do not have access to computers, the internet, or the knowledge on how to use either, the strategy is to use printed posters with photographs and messages related to my thesis project on any site where communities frequent, so that visual access is freely available.

Access info. via computers

June 12, 2008, 8:09 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

On the evening of 2 June 2008, five close friends, four proudly self identifying as Drag Queens, went for an outing in Yeoville. Confronted by homophobic hate speech, they challenged three men to stop calling them “izitabane”.

Shortly after 9pm, one of the three men, sitting in a white Corolla, handed a gun to the other friend to “shoot lezitabane”.  Twenty five year old Desmond Dube, fondly known as Daisy, died on the scene.

Close friend, Odwa Mbane, who was at the scene described the fear and chaos caused by the assassins. She affirms that the motivation was because of their gender identity and that they were not going to subject themselves to ridicule.

MaNonstikeleo Dube describes her daughter’s pride for who she was, her love for her, sense of responsibility and her great loss of a daughter who had carried her needs and dreams to the day she was brutally murdered.

Daisy Dube was buried at the Thembisa cemetery, following a moving service in Yeoville, attended by many members of the LGBTI community from around Johannesburg .

The family and friends would like to see justice being done for Daisy and the return of a crime-less and peaceful Yeoville. The Yeoville Police have opened a case [number 45/06/2008] and are investigating the matter.

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the CID on 011 487 3971. LGBTI activists are concerned at the increasing levels of homophobic attacks, leading to murders against its community. Together with communities, they will intensify the campaign to end hate against LGBTI people.