The very topic of LGBTQ identity in certain parts of the world is still taboo and causes disapproval, dismay, and is treated as an offense. If a society does not show the strong will to systematically change the social sphere through education, hatred and violence increase despite the huge efforts of various initiatives, collectives, and individuals.
Such is the case in South Africa, where the community is largely affected by severe homophobia. In order to raise awareness of the horrid state in which they find themselves on daily basis, a group of activists and artists gathered as a collective. Their production is going to be presented at Jenkins Johnson Projects in NYC on an exhibition titled Pride & Loss.
Under the symbolical title Inkanyiso, which means "the light" in the Zulu language, the collective was founded in 2009 and focused on empowerment and visibility of local black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. Led by Zanele Muholi, it consists of Velisa Jara, Lerato Dumse, Collen Mfazwe, Thembi Mthembu, Lebogang Boitumelo, Nkopane Mashifane and Thembela Dick.
Despite the fact that South Africa allowed same-sex marriage in 2006, the society still is contaminated with homophobia, so much so that the hush violence like corrective rape and homicides are very often due to the lack of institutional protection. Muholi herself has been exposed to a burglary when a hard disc with her work has been stolen, while the other member of the group was recently severely beaten.
As a matter of fact, the works of the Inkanyiso collective documents the struggling community is passing each day in order to remain alive. In this exhibition, curated by Zanele Muholi, the audience will have a chance to see mainly photographs and videos which represent the thin line between life and death of queer citizens of South Africa. Whether the joyous (pride or weddings or tragic events (funerals), the works perfectly show all the bitterness of life in allegedly democratic society.
The show should also be perceived in the light of the current context in America – the rise of transphobic, homophobic, and racist occurrences. The idea is to connect with the local LGBTI people in the Brooklyn neighborhood In order to articulate new strategies for empowerment and struggle.
Zanele Muholi, who curated the exhibition, has an international artistic renome and has exhibited in various spaces from Stedelijk Museum in Amstredam to 55th Biennial in Venice. Most of the artists present at Pride & Loss are actually Muholi’s companions from the collective, which she brought to New York to participate at the South African Pavilion Without Walls, in the Performa 17 Biennial of performance-based art.
This important exhibition will take place at Jenkins Johnson Projects in New York with the opening reception and the performance by Push Ngelenga on 28 April, while the closing reception is going to happen on 16 June 2018, with the Same-Sex Saturday performance and coinciding with NYC Pride and South African Youth Day.
Featured image: Collen Mfazwe - LGBTI Community Showing Their Respect for Their Fallen Comrade, 2017. Archival inkjet print. Courtesy of the artist and Jenkins Johnson Projects, NY.