Mama Africa - PhMuseum

Mama Africa

Corinna Kern

2014

South Africa

Despite a constitution considered one of the most liberal in the world in terms of LGBTI rights (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender intersex), South Africa poses severe challenges for those whose gender identity does not comply to ‘the norm’. Especially townships and rural communities are strongly shaped by traditional beliefs that consider nonconforming gender and gender expression ‘un-African’. Hate crimes and institutionalized homophobia are common consequences and often force individuals to perform their gender according to society’s standards.

This project gives an intimate glimpse into the lives of four African transgender women in their endeavours to realise themselves as who they are. Rather than letting stigma and fear dictate their identities, they integrate themselves into a society in that heteronormative gender roles shape people’s lives. By means of their stories, this project explores the tension between gender as a fixed social construct and as a feeling starting from within. The individuals’ opposition to the traditional gender binary conveys the fluidity and ambiguity of gender, inspiring a shift towards an open-minded view on what African gender identity can be as opposed to what society demands it to be.

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  • Transgender woman Lazola Canzibe alias Mama Africa, 24, lies on her bed wearing traditional Xhosa clothing August 27, 2014 in Kwelera, East London, South Africa. Identifying as a female, Lazola sticks to the traditional gender roles in her community in that women are the homekeepers whose main duties are cleaning, cooking, fetching water, collecting firewood and looking after the children.

  • In preparation for the 'Miss Trans Diva' event on September 27, 2014 transgender woman Lazola Canzibe (C), 24, and some of her fellow contestants try on dresses at the office building of S.H.E. (Social, Health And Empowerment Feminist Collective Of Transgender And Intersex Women Of Africa) September 26, 2014 in East London, South Africa. Focusing on human rights 'Miss Trans Diva' is the second annual beauty pageant for trans women of East London and surrounding areas.

  • Transgender woman Lazola Canzibe (C), 24, visits her cousin Nolusapho Ndoyana (L), currently wearing traditional clothing, and her niece Nontombi Ndoyana (R) October 03, 2014 in Ngxingxolo, Mooiplaas, East London, South Africa. Living quite far away in Kwelera, Lazola has the chance to visit them today because she helps with preparations for a traditional ceremony taking place close to her cousin's home within the upcoming days. The ceremony is devoted to a praisal of ancestors on October 04 followed by a celebration on October 05. Rural areas, such as Ngxingxolo, are strongly shaped by traditional practices and gender roles. Identifying as a female, Lazola sticks to the traditional gender role of women whose main duties are cleaning, cooking, fetching water, collecting firewood and looking after the children.

  • Transgender woman Malwande McTavish Onceya (R), 25, holds an artificial breast in her hands that she uses every day to increase her feminine appearance August 28, 2014 in Breidbach, East London, South Africa. She has been dressing as a woman ever since she was a child and even wore school uniforms for girls.

  • Reading the schedule for the 'Miss Trans Diva' event, transgender women Lazola Canzibe (C), 24, stands in one of the changing rooms where she prepares herself with fellow contestants Tulie Naomi Vili (L), 23, and Adida Austin Mzukwa (R), 19, at Miriam Makeba Center for Performing Arts September 27, 2014 in East London, South Africa. Focusing on human rights 'Miss Trans Diva' is the second annual beauty pageant for trans women of East London and surrounding areas. During the first round the contestants have to present themselves on stage in 'casual wear'.

  • Transgender women Lazola Canzibe, 24, Tulie Naomi Vili, 23, and Adida Austin Mzukwa, 19, (C-L) pose with the other participants of 'Miss Trans Diva' in front of the jurors and audience at the Miriam Makeba Center for Performing Arts September 27, 2014 in East London, South Africa. Focusing on human rights, 'Miss Trans Diva' is the second annual beauty pageant for trans women of East London and surrounding areas.

  • Visiting the rural area where she grew up, transgender woman Malwande McTavish Onceya (L), 25, talks to her grandmother Elsie Onceya (R), 74, in her grandmother's kitchen September 20, 2014 in Liefeldt Location, King William's Town, South Africa.

  • Transgender woman Malwande McTavish Onceya, 25, puts on deodorant in her bathroom before going out to work, which comprises outreach as a peer educator for SWEAT (Sex Worker Education & Advocacy Taskforce) as well as sex work October 14, 2014 in Mdantsane, East London, South Africa. Malwande has been working in the sex work industry since the age of 18. Taking financial care of her brother and cousin her employment with SWEAT alone does not cover the expenses.

  • Transgender woman Malwande McTavish Onceya (R), 25, is about to put on her shoes while her brother Sikho Mayeko, 14, folds the jacket of his school uniform October 14, 2014 in Breidbach, East London, South Africa. Malwande takes financial care of her brother and cousin. Her employment as a peer educator for SWEAT (Sex Worker Education & Advocacy Taskforce) alone does not pay the expenses, which is why she additionally works as a 'pleasure executive', meaning sex worker. Malwande has been working in the sex work industry since the age of 18.

  • ransgender woman Malwande McTavish Onceya (C), 25, gets hit on by a client while her friend and colleague Lindiwe Fihla (R), 31, sits opposite her in a local pub called 'Oddfellows' September 20, 2014 in King William's Town, East London, South Africa. As the venue is well-known in the sex workers scene, Malwande often goes here to look for clients as well as to do outreach on other sex workers in the context of her employment by a NGO called SWEAT (Sex Workers Education & Advocacy Taskforce).

  • Transgender woman Tulie Naomi Vili (L), 23, and her gay friend Okuhle Somana (R), 23, kiss each other in the kitchen of Tulie's home October 04, 2014 in Mdantsane, East London, South Africa. Tulie and Okuhle got to know each other at the 2nd annual 'Miss Trans Diva' event on September 27, 2014, through which Tulie was awarded 'Miss Trans 2014', and have been dating since.

  • Transgender woman Tulie Naomi Vili (R), 24, and her gay friend Okuhle Somana (L), 23, walk arm in arm down the street in that Tulie lives October 04, 2014 in Mdantsane, East London, South Africa. They got to know each other at the 2nd annual 'Miss Trans Diva' event on September 27, 2014, through which Tulie was awarded 'Miss Trans 2014', and have been dating since.

  • Make-up and styling equipment lies on the table in the small private hair saloon of the relatives of transgender woman Tulie Naomi Vili, 24, October 07, 2014 in East London, South Africa. The razor blades are used to trim eyebrows.

  • Transgender woman Adida Austin Mzukwa (L), 19, puts on make-up before going shopping while her cousin is lying on the bed watching her October 06, 2014 in East London, South Africa. Adida was selected as the 1st princess (2nd place) of the 'Miss Trans Diva' - the second annual beauty pageant focusing on human rights for trans women of East London and surrounding areas. As she has another fashion show coming up for that she has to wear several outfits, she is looking to get a new clothes.

  • On her search for new feminine outfits, transgender woman Adida Austin Mzukwa (C), 19, tries on a dress in a changing room of a clothing store being watched by her gay friend Anathi James (L), 18, and an employee (R) October 06, 2014 in East London, South Africa. Adida was selected as the 1st princess (2nd place) of the 'Miss Trans Diva' - the second annual beauty pageant focusing on human rights for trans women of East London and surrounding areas. As she has another fashion show coming up she is looking to get a new wig as well as clothes.

  • Transgender woman Tulie Naomi Vili, 23, holds a rugby ball waiting for the opponent team to be ready for the match October 07, 2014 in Nahoon, East London, South Africa. Tulie and her gender non-conforming friends spontaneously asked a group of strangers playing rugby at Nahoon beach if they can join them for a match. Tulie is fit at sports since regularly playing netball matches in her hometown, the rural areas of Berlin, South Africa.

  • Being exhausted after having played rugby with a group of strangers on the beach, transgender women Tulie Naomi Vili (C), 24, and Adida Austin Mzukwa (R), 19, and their gay friend Anathi James (L), 18, walk back to the car October 07, 2014 in Nahoon, East London, South Africa.

  • Transgender woman Tulie Naomi Vili, 23, walks hand in hand with a friend towards the street October 07, 2014 in Mdantsane, East London, South Africa. Despite Africa's hetero-patriarchal beliefs rendering transgenderism 'un-African', Tulie is widely accepted among her wider community including strangers.

  • Transgender woman Tulie Naomi Vili, 23, dresses herself in order to go to her aunt's place where she helps with the preparations for a traditional ceremony on October 10, 2014 in Tshabo, Berlin, South Africa. During the ceremony taking place on October 11 the tombstones of recently deceased family members are unveiled.

  • Wearing hair removal cream around her mouth, transgender woman Tulie Naomi Vili, 23, gossips with her cousin Yolanda Kwetani, 23, showing her photos on her phone October 10, 2014 in Magenigeni Village, Tshabo, Berlin, South Africa. Tulie prepares herself to go to her relatives' place to help with preparations for a traditional ceremony taking place the next day.

  • MAGENIGENI VILLAGE, TSHABO, BERLIN, SOUTH AFRICA - OCTOBER 10, 2014: Standing in her aunt's kitchen, transgender woman Tulie Naomi Vili, 23, contemplates about her conflict of whether to attend the traditional family ceremony the next day or a dialogue for transgender women that she was asked to join since being awarded as the 'Miss Trans 2014' on October 10, 2014 in Tshabo, Berlin, South Africa. During the traditional ceremony taking place on October 11 the tombstones of recently deceased family members are unveiled; the dialogue is an opportunity for trans women to share experiences amongst each other and important for Tulie's duties as 'Miss Trans'.

  • Transgender woman Tulie Naomi Vili (L), 23, and her friend Anezwa Zozoka (R), 25, joke around while walking down the streets in Magenigeni Village, the place where Tulie grew up and now visits to help with the preparations for a traditional ceremony October 10, 2014 in Tshabo, Berlin, South Africa. During the ceremony taking place on October 11 the tombstones of recently deceased family members are unveiled.

  • Transgender woman Tulie Naomi Vili, 23, hurries to brush her teeth in the garden of her grandmother's home in Magenigeni village, a rural area of Berlin, before a traditional ceremony during that the tombstones of recently deceased family members are unveiled on October 11, 2014 in Tshabo, Berlin, South Africa.

  • Wearing her high heels, transgender woman Tulie Naomi Vili (R), 23, has her lunch sitting on the kitchen counter after a traditional ceremony during that the tombstones of recently deceased family members are unveiled on October 11, 2014 in Magenigeni Village, Tshabo, Berlin, South Africa. Magenigeni Village is a rural area where Tulie grew up. She regularly comes for visits on occasions such as traditional ceremonies or netball matches in that she participates.


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