By: Zama Shange

“I started documenting our realities because there was none, and I was tired of our people being defined by media. So nina maqenge, nama femme, nama trans women, we have a responsibility to write our own history our own lives because no one will do that for you. Please keep on going on and let’s make sure that we collaborate, let’s undo hate, let us try to make sure that we push activism with a passion. This is the beginning, sibhala umlando wase South Africa. I am home finally!!!” these are the words quoted by UniQ Magazine from the opening speech of Prof Zanele Muholi at her Homecoming Exhibition. Zama Shange who attended the exhibition and was part of the planning is taking us through the thread.

Durban Arts Gallery was on standstill and packed to capacity as art lovers and supporters of Prof. Muholi attended Prof. Muholi Homecoming- Durban Chapter. The exhibition was officially opened on Friday, 1st of December 2017 and it will run through till the 28th of February 2018.

Photographer and visual activist Prof. Muholi has travelled around the world exhibiting five amazing bodies of work: Faces and Phases, Somnyama Ngonyama, Love and lost; Mourning, Brave Beauties. This time the outstanding work was brought back home, not just South Africa but Durban where Prof. Muholi was born and bred. Truly this was history in the making and a homecoming that will be spoken about for decades to come.

Prof. Muholi’s work speaks for itself, not only does it feature Lesbians and transwomen from all parts of South Africa, but Prof. Muholi connects the dot by connecting all those that work on these projects, empowering and promoting collaborations so that people may work together to not only tell our stories through activism but to bring about change to the LGBTQI community and society at large.

The LGBTQI community from Durban and surrounding areas came in numbers, most of the young people from the community have never ever been in an art gallery, let alone be exposed to such work that is about them and is for them. It was truly amazing to see the community come together and even society members whom don’t belong to the LGBTQI family came through in numbers. The work was covered in 3 different gallery halls. Attendees were spoilt with amazing art work hanging on the walls, screening of documentaries an interviews and not only that, one should know that Prof. Muholi goes all out, performances from well-known artist in the LGBTQI community were present to do what they do best, perform. Most of the performers are featured on Prof. Muholi’s work, hence the Sisonke Collective name came about. Amongst those to perform were: Rainbow Theatre Group: a group of talented, vibrant and passionate young people, whom not only are dancers, but they do drama and participate in various workshops that help educate the community, by far the best performance of all times, not a single person was not captivated and moved by the Somnyama Ngonyama performance the group put together. Lead by Thobeka Bhengu an Artistic Director at Gay & Lesbian Network and a performer whose dancing is a communication tool and therapy. Thobeka works closely with the young members of Rainbow Theatre dance group. Not only does she teaches the group but she mentors and is like a mother to the young kids who look up to her with so much respect and appreciation.

Amongst the performers was Anelisa Stuurman and Marcia Buwa. Their performance is a mix of both worlds. With Anelisa’s rare and unique vocals Marcia supporting with the beat boxing and rap the two bring in a fresh new sound of youth full African Hip Hop and root music that is loved by many and sure to take over the world in the new future.

Amongst the attendees were well known Activists, Artists, Performers, photographers and media houses and very special guests from all over the country. Just to name a few guests, Professor Hlonipha Mokoena, an Associate Professor at Wiser and Assistance Dean for research in faculty of Humanities. Pastor Teboho Moema, whom is not only a Pastor but a well-known Motivational Speaker and successful business man involved in Property Development, commercial property and Brokerage. Thandeka Ngobese a powerful and driven business woman in the Media and community development and Inanda FM Station Manager.  The Gallery was sure full of Powerful individuals and all brought together by Prof. Muholi and the amazing work.

The exhibition was not just attended by South African special guests only, we all know that Prof. Muholi is an international artist, so it was only natural to have a few well known guest from abroad. Amongst those whom attended the Prof. Muholi Durban Homecoming Exhibition was Phyll Opuku Gyimah also known as Lady Phyll, whom is a founder, trustee and executive director of UK Black Pride. Accompanied by Pauline N Gouala a Queer Artist and oil Painter who encapsulates the rich culture and heritage of LGBTQI community. The pair is absolutely amazing and immediately blends in with the Sisonke Collective family.

All the way from New York, Staceyann Chin flew in to South Africa just a few weeks after hosting Muholi and Sisonke Collective for dinner at her house whilst Muholi was exhibiting in New York. Staceyann Chin is a spoken word poet, performing artist and LGBT rights political activist. Her work has been published all over the world and surely a statement has been made.

The exhibition will be running until the 28th February 2018, consisted of Educational Programmes, Photography and Visual Activism and walk about by the artist. The exhibition presents evolutions and ongoing photographic projects, affirming Prof. Muholi’s commitment to activism through visual history and The Durban Art Gallery is open to anyone and everyone to visit and appreciate to beautiful work brought home.

To say The Durban Exhibition Homecoming was a success would be an understatement. The homecoming was the best Solo exhibition in History of Africa. World-wide it captured the attention of different types of people. A statement was made, Stand up and take notice, hear our stories told by us.

As Prof. Muholi would say: “I don’t want to always present tragedy from South Africa. I want to show things that are joyous, that makes a person who might have thought of the jungle think of something else”