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Visual artist and photographer Zanele Muholi’s new exhibition, Faces and Phases, centered around queer bodies opened on Thursday at the Stevenson Gallery in Johannesburg.
The exhibition opening comes two days after South Africa marked a decade since the introduction of the Civil Union Bill in the National Assembly. The bill legalised same-sex marriage and civil partnership throughout South Africa.
“It feels like I’m a part of something great, part of history even though at the time I didn’t know it would be this big,” said Shirley Ndaba, a participant who has been documented by Muholi over the past ten years as part of the Faces and Phases project.
Muholi admitted that working on a series of this magnitude can be emotionally and physically exhausting but is humbled by the participants as they have taken risks with this project. Some come from oppressive African countries when it comes to gender and sexual rights and have dedicated their faces and time to the series.
The internationally-award winning photographer is currently focused in producing follow-up photos of her participants as they encounter the new phases and progress in their lives.
Muholi marks the course of each of her participants’ growth by exhibiting the initial portraits alongside those recently taken, allowing for a continuation in the storytelling of her participants – as she refers to them – lives and journeys. The photographs feel confrontational, the subjects stare into the eyes of the viewer as though to ask, “why are you looking at me?”
“‘Faces’ express the person, and ‘Phases’ signify the transition from one stage of sexuality or gender expression and experience to another. ‘Faces’ is also about the face-to-face confrontation between myself as the photographer/activist and the many lesbians, women and transwomen and transmen I have interacted with from different places,” said Muholi.
WHAM! A queer social rugby club based at Wits was started this year by Witsie Gabriel Khan and a group of his friends.
“I love rugby and I love the queers, it was the natural thing to do!” said Khan, who works for the Gay and Lesbian Archives (GALA).
Wham! is made up of Wits students, some ex-Witsies as well as people who are linked to Activate, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Intersexual student society (LGBTI), as well as other GALA members.
“Wham! is about creating a healthy social space for queer people to meet and make friends, outside the usual scene of bars and clubs.”
“Although we have other queers who heard about rugby, and decided to join in as well, Activate has been great in supporting this initiative,” said Kahn. Khan said Wham! members come together every Saturday and play a game of rugby, usually followed by a drink and the vibe is “usually quite chilled.”
“There aren’t many safe spaces for queers to meet socially, and I thought sport is a healthy way to get out there and have a good time.”
Although Wham! started as a social game, the team are looking to become more competitive and hope to play against other teams such as the Cape Town based queer rugby team, Blight Rugby club. “We’d be keen to play against other Wits teams, just for the fun of it!” said Khan.
Anyone can join in the fun and players don’t necessarily need to be queer.
“We don’t discriminate against straight people. It’s mostly about having a good time and it’s also a great way to get fitter,” said Khan.
Khan said anyone who is interested can join the team on Saturday, even if it’s just to watch and support. Khan said Wham! has a Facebook page with information on practices and events.