#blackdragmagic - PhMuseum

#blackdragmagic

Lee-Ann Olwage

2019

#BlackDragMagic - A collaborative project created by Lee-Ann Olwage and drag artist and activist Belinda Qaqamba Kafassie.

The project #BlackDragMagic tells the stories of black queer, gender-nonconforming, and trans people who grew up in the townships of Cape Town, where they have to navigate their daily lives. In reality, the township is also a space where they are subjected to harassment, violence, and discrimination on a daily basis.

The process of creating the project became a radical and progressive act of activism to reclaim the township and to stand up against the overwhelming climate of discrimination black queer individuals face in the township.

The project was created to serve as a platform of expression for black queer individuals where they were invited to co-create images they felt told their stories in a way that is affirming and celebratory.

The setting was chosen to showcase and celebrate the lesser-known township drag scene that exists in Cape Town. The art form of drag has been westernized and South African drag queens have often assimilated to these western standards of drag. There is therefore a need to celebrate and embrace African drag as an art form that tells stories about Africans in Africa, the African way. It is an act of decolonizing drag.

The project also explores the role cultural identity plays in black queer identity and addresses the ways in which it is problematic. It is impossible to separate Xhosa and queer identity from one another. To erase a significant part of someone’s identity is to invalidate their full existence. This is problematic because it somehow gives muscle to the erroneous idea of homosexuality being perceived as ‘unAfrican.’

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  • Belinda Qaqamba Kafassie, a drag artist and activist from Elands Bay, poses at the shisanyama in Khayelitsha, a community space where women cook and sell meat. Kafassie started drag as an escape from the oppression they felt at Stellenbosch University for being “black, Xhosa, poor, queer and effeminate.” Instead of conforming to the westernised standards of
    drag, Kafassie uses their unique style to elevate and celebrate African drag as an art that tells stories about Africans in Africa, the African way. Aug. 4, 2019.

  • Mthulic Vee Vuma (Thuli), a trans woman from Lingelihle township in Malmesbury, is pictured in front of a shack in Khayelitsha dressed in traditional female Xhosa clothing. This is done to challenge binary thinking that strongly differentiates between masculine and feminine traditional clothing. “Here we use our own culture to frame our identity, even though this contests the societal norms and gendered dress codes that are set in our culture. We frame our identity by tying together our stories of subjectivity and culture,” Vuma says. Her family initially struggled to accept her as a trans woman, believing it was a curse, but she says they now give her total support. Aug. 4, 2019.

  • Mandisi Dolle Phika, from Paarl, poses in a section of the tshisanyama in Khayelitsha. “I have faced homophobia since Primary School. The word ‘mofffie’ was often used to humiliate and break me. It is this derogatory term which was used as a weapon to shut me out. I started referring to myself as a ‘moffie’ so that the word would not hurt me. I used the word to empower myself. Whenever I was referred to as a ‘moffie’, I would not be hurt. The word lost its power to dismantle and demean me.” Aug. 4, 2019.

  • The team from the #blackdragmagic collective pose at the shisanyama in Khayelitsha. In the background women are preparing and cooking meat for customers who visit the communal space. The group explains: “Being in a township space, a space where the most queer phobic and transphobic violence occurs becomes an act of reclaiming the space where we navigate our lives. If we don’t reclaim these spaces, it’s like we don’t exist.” Aug. 4, 2019.

  • Liyana Arianna Madikizela, who graduated from high school last year, is a drag artist from Kayamandi, a township outside the university town of Stellenbosch. Madikizela wanted her portrait to challenge traditional gender roles. “I have decided to be myself. I am a gender non-conforming body and I want to be a role model to the future generations of queers to
    come. I want to become the role model I never saw in the streets of Kayamandi. Living in a township has taught me to be strong and strive. I have dealt with the stigma and hate, and now am stronger. ” Aug. 4, 2019.

  • Unathi Ferguson is a dancer from Khayelitsha. “The township carries a deeply interlaced notion of a sense of belonging and if you don’t meet the requirements of the space you are often marginalised or ‘otherred’. I used to hide and deny my queerness even though everyone in high school suspected I was gay. I chose to limit my expression and conform to the requirements of the space. I was outed by a teacher in 11th grade for being gay, but eventually saw the moment as a chance to embark on a journey to sanity and complete acceptance of who I was.” Aug. 4, 2019.

  • Shakira Mabika, who identifies as a trans woman, emigrated to South Africa from Zimbabwe, where former president Robert Mugabe, “has referred to people like me as ‘pigs’ and un-African.” She chose to be photographed by dilapidated shacks where pigs were kept behind a fence. “I moved to Cape Town, South Africa in search of a space where I could live my truth,” she says. After that move in 2013, she has faced transphobia and xenophobia. Aug. 4, 2019.

  • Belinda Qaqamba Kafassie (left), Mandisi Dolle Phika (middle) and Mthulic Vee Vuma (right) in Khayelitsha dressed in traditional female Xhosa garments in an act to frame their identity with their culture. “We can’t separate our queerness from our Xhosa heritage and therefore we use it to enforce our identity. To erase a significant part of someone’s identity is to invalidate their full existence. This is problematic because it somehow gives muscle to the erroneous idea of homosexuality being perceived as ‘unAfrican,'” the group explains. Aug. 4, 2019.

  • Mandisi Dolle Phika, from Paarl, chose to create her portrait in front of a church in Khayelitsha. “The church is often used as an institution to promote anti-queerness; so I chose the
    church as a way of reclaiming our sacred spaces and to give visual meaning to the God we believe loves us the way we are. I believe that a colourful God exist, one that appreciates and celebrates diversity in all its manifestations.” Aug. 4, 2019.

  • The team of #blackdragmagic pose for a group shot at the taxi rank in site C Khayelitsha. This is done as an act of activism to reclaim the township and to stand up against the overwhelming climate of discrimination members of the LGBTQI+ community face in the township. With this portrait the group intends to send a clear message that public and
    community spaces need to be safe spaces for members of the LGBTQI+ community. Aug. 4, 2019.


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