spectrum.za a South African e-zine for black lgbt+ creatives and artists Volume 1 Edition 1 2017
WHAT’S INSIDE #URLBANTWANA The idea for spectrum.za magazine came about with the hope of documenting, archiving, and treasuring works produced by black, queer and transgender South African artists, creatives and content producers. This e-zine aims to collate the myriad experiences and works by people who are often erased, underrepresented or misrepresented in mainstream media. Using the tools available to us, spectrum.za magazine will always work towards highlighting and amplifying a wide spectrum of voices. The work of diversity and inclusivity is difficult and we will never be perfect, but we will dare to do it anyway. In one of the poems featured in our first edition Zaki Mlaba writes that life, in the context of queerness, will always be both tender and terrifying. Our cover, illustrated by Akhona Mdletshe is carried in a similar vein. To be a black, queer and transgender person living in the chaos of post-apartheid South Africa means acknowledging the experiences that lie at either end of this dichotomy. Life means loving, exploring, feeling joy and navigating knowing that these experiences are rightfully yours, and exist as part of greater injustices. Loving in the midst of tenderness and terror. Navigating every intersection in a gendered, sexed and racialised body both online and off the screen, and still having to keep your head above water and survive.
ON THE COVER
Inside this edition we revisit Phatstoki’s first mix of the series titled Mix for Pomp. We hope that the music accompanies you as you read, meditate and wonder at the state of being young and black in this country. We feature poetry from Zaki Mlaba as well as Maneo Mohale who both, in their own respects, consider love. Love for the self. Romantic love. Poems about love that kick you in your chest. Glow Makatsi writes on cisheteronormative beauty standards and the impacts this has on the transgender community. Lelo Macheke revists Stellenbosch Univeristy’s #IAmStellenbosch campaign from 2015 and unpacks the inspirations and effects of non-racial thinking as it pertains to the rainbow nation project. Thenjiwe Mswane considers the erasure of black women in South African history and her efforts at ensuring that black women, herself included, are placed back into history and the canon, as they rightfully should. A special thank you to all our contributors, our editorial team, and our friends over at Ja. Magazine.
Illustration by Akhona Mdletshe
MIX FOR POMP 1 BY PHATSTOKI
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN
for her by Maneo Mohale
Take me back to that first blush. Trace it like a slow fingertip along the lengthy warmth of my collarbone, trace it back for me. I’ll pick up my skirts, reveal my thick ankled boots and march through the dirt and dust of us, back to the first where the brown of the ground seeped up into the brown of my dress skin brown leather triangles buttoned down. You stared and I asked “…what?” the boyish imp of your smile digging into the soft of your cheek like a poke in a pillow you replied “…ah, it’s nothing” my curiosity lifted its head like a sudden-sunflower at the sun. I ventured again “no. …what?” you replied “it’s just” [a pause] “youlooksobeautiful”
I was this curved canvas. for you to leave strokes of momentary desire clean your brush on the inside and pretend to paint... surprised at the abstract grace that your colour left on my stretches. convinced now of beauty. accidental.
humxn. (in two parts) by Zaki Mlaba
1. the only thing finite is time. but like the hands of an unbroken clock one has to keep on moving keep manifesting into different versions of yourself every day. who you are lies in the whispers that you try to ignore. who you are is alive in the thoughts that you try to suppress. your vision of you shouldn’t die because the beauty of you manifests into shades of midnight and rays of sunshine with cascades of wind.
2. your queer, like your body doesn’t need to be explained. your queer could explode from the closet of your fears. but if the closet is your haven don’t be pushed/ pulled love your queer accept what’s offered without guilt or shame. don’t be swayed by any patriarchal heteronormative ideals pushed against you don’t be stained by tainted love disguised in your queer.
let the wind take you where it needs to take you, welcome whatever form of you appears welcome it softly and with purpose.
don’t be pushed into drawing your own blood by the thoughts of you not being enough.
do not lie to yourself lest you lose yourself to the wind or turn into it and the wind might feel cool, but it can’t house a body.
see yourself in your own queer not what you ‘should look like’ because you shouldn’t fade away in other people’s queer.
you need to find the home in you. find the home in the body that you call yours; that you want to call yours that you see yourself in because whatever body that you live in, is yours entirely.
follow yourself blindly into your queerness into your humxn into you towards your love because whatever it is whatever you are or could be is love and we’re given love with the fear of heartbreak but we shouldn’t stop because our lives will always be both tender and terrifying.
Women have deep voices too by Glow Makatsi There is an ancient tradition in Chinese culture that involved women binding their feet in the shape of a ball. Foot binding, a process that goes on for years in the pursuit of perfection, was considered to enhance women’s feet; a sign of elegance and beauty. A few thoughts on this made me realize that this practice, similar to voice-training, was rooted in the misogynistic culture that dictates that women with big feet are less desirable. The male gaze inspired and perpetuated this practice without considering the women’s pain and consent. This phenomenon is one of several points of departure when I consider the ideals of beauty and desire in the trans community. Voice training is a practice which many trans women employ to fit the oppressive and narrowly packaged idea that femininity takes form in one way. This idea is constructed by cisnormative patriarchy to benefit men, without taking into account women’s views or agency, nor is it inclusive of the myriad forms that womanhood and femininity unfolds in. I have recently found myself debating whether voice-training is necessary for me, and due to my politics, I find its motivation to be driven entirely by forces outside of me. Forces that argue that my voice as is, is not good enough. I mean, good enough? Good enough for whom? For men? The cisheteronormative public? This is an instance of transmisogyny (an intersecting oppression manifesting through transphobia and misogyny). Voice-training is often undertaken so that trans women who transition after puberty can get a “pass” as cisgender woman. A “pass” because in most cases, if you transition after puberty your voice may already have broken - your Adam’s apple could be visible among other irreversible effects of testosterone. Although a pass is how trans women simplify the concept for convenience, it goes beyond getting clocked. Voice-training is often employed because patriarchy dictates that women who, for example, do not have petite body frames or do not cross their legs or do not shave their underarms, are not “real women”. The very idea that “real women” are the type of women who subscribe to these ideologies undermines women’s agency and autonomy. If my big voice gets me cut out of the #realwomen squad, then I am happy as fake. Despite my socalled fake womanhood, I am authentic enough to determine that my realness will not be defined by a system that does not protect nor care for my livelihood.
Re-visiting the #IAMStellenbosch campaign by Lelo Macheke Covering the grotesque and rotting wounds - both literal and metaphorical - of historical violence is a part of South Africa’s heritage. “Non-racialism” is the unchanged bandage that continues to cause the wounds on South Africa’s social justice project to become increasingly septic. Institutions of higher learning in South Africa lie at the heart of these wounds, as they are sites that continue to be necessary demonstrations of how unhealed we are as a nation. One of the most notable references to the debilitating nature of the “non-racialism” trope in contemporary South Africa is Stellenbosch University. In the last quarter of 2015 the university involuntarily came under the spotlight of the transformation and decolonisation debate. The Open Stellies organisation released Luister – a short documentary depicting the inflictions of institutional racism on Black students at the university. The attention generated by the documentary inspired an interesting reaction from students and staff that convinced themselves that Stellenbosch University was a race-less space. This reaction coalesced under the #IAmStellenbosch banner, a campaign, which sought to erase the university’s material and ideological racial transgressions. It involved amateur portraits of students and staff that smiled and posed with handwritten statements meant to represent the campus as non-racist. It was a microcosmic demonstration of the offensive and violent way that the rainbow nation project has failed to create, or even feign a perfect society. Reproducing Hegemony via Cultural Annihilation The personal narratives offered by the individuals portrayed in the #IAmStellenbosch campaign did more damage than good to the ideal of diversity. An assessment of the collection of narratives portrayed in the campaign assisted in unpacking a train of thought suggesting a non-racialism of the campaign’s participants. A white person (or a person that identifies with the dominant hegemony) is likely to not see colour for two reasons: The first is that claiming not to see race is fueled by the fear of being perceived as political or radical as a consequence of having an interest in race relations. This fear heightens the anxiety of an individual as being seen as a political threat, risking losing certain
privileges that come with identifying with the dominant hegemony. Secondly - aiming towards non-racialism absolves one from doing the work of including ‘difference’ into the equation of race and still managing to get a positive figure that favours meaningful equality. Claiming non-racialism also absolves one of the responsibility of dealing with race’s inherent ability to implicate an individual for race-inspired harm and the legacies that continue from that harm. It is safe to claim this brand of non-racialism as a part of your identity, for it is the type of non-racialism that keeps you sedated from your own consciousness, while allowing you to remain a part of the race(ism) problem. A Black person (or a person that is not racially a part of the dominant hegemony) is likely to claim not to see colour for two reason: Firstly, claiming non-racialism as a black person in the context of Stellenbosch University/ post-apartheid South Africa grants that particular individual a level of opportunity to navigate environments that are heavily gate-kept as they are inherently abundant with material and ideological privileges. As the processes of navigating these spaces continue, one’s Black/’Othered’ identity becomes less of a holistic representation of this individual’s entity and more of a prerequisite access card to these spaces. In other words, tokenism. Secondly, claiming non-racialism as a Black person is often sufficient to appease the white universe. This is how and why non-racialism falls in the trap of being a one-way ticket to hegemonic assimilation. Varsity Idealism and Intellectual Shortages Besides being one of the self-congratulatory barometers with which white hegemony uses to measure its own version of freedom, the #IAmStellenbosch campaign, and those similar to it, was also a telling indication of the untransformed academic and intellectual space in South Africa. South African universities are still not safe and ideal spaces where the reimagination of existence is encouraged, developed, nourished and enacted. Instead, these institutions of higher learning are spaces where figures that threaten the hegemony are readily apprehended. The advent of the #RUReferenceList Protests at Rhodes University in 2016 was also an accurate demonstration of this. It is clear that South African institutions of
higher learning are not committed enough (if at all) to reimagining ways of urgently addressing the ways they perpetuate structural and ideological inequalities. Curricula fail to effectively mass-produce students that are equipped with enough intellectual and social capital to address South Africa’s social ills, especially at an undergraduate level. A student should not be graduating from an institution of higher learning with the ability to proudly refer to themselves as “non-white” and still “…not fully understand Apartheid”. If this is the case - which it very well is - then it is an indication of failure within the teaching process and the student’s inability/refusal to understand the present South Africa in which that student lives in. Perpetuating the Violence of Silencing The #IAmStellebosch campaign’s attempt to have a conversation about non-racialism on its campus was ideologically unsound and bared suspicious intentions. While the campaign’s intention was to portray a narrative of a non-racialised, diverse, yet homogenous society, the campaign carelessly neglected to assess the nature of its homogeneity narrative. This neglect was a careless undermining of the campaign’s disingenuous message which revealed the cracks in the walls of a house which whiteness has built for itself. The predominant idea that embellished the campaign speaks to the aspiration, assimilation or preservation of a whiteness which is under no obligation to transcend itself, or, to recognise any other consciousness. For instance, as highlighted in the campaign, it is factually correct that there are white people who have romantic relations with other race groups. It is also factually correct that there are black people currently at Stellenbosch University who pride themselves in being able to speak Afrikaaner nationalist Afrikaans and have intimate knowledge of its history and legacies. Lastly, it is factually correct that there are individuals who prophetically claim to not see people as racialized figures, but rather as human beings. However, these facts are exceptions which do not have a legitimate place in the discussion about the frameworks, patterns and motifs of contemporary racism. These exceptions have a misplaced role in annihilating the truth in Stellenbosch University being one of the last remaining fortresses of Afrikaaner nationalism to exist in a democratic era. These exceptions are misplaced in negating the fact that Stellen-
bosch University was built, and still stands, on a racially odious foundation that continues to police, insult and react violently towards non-hegemonic/black bodies on an institutional, intellectual, socio-cultural, (meta)physical and emotional level. An important part of healing the race wound is to come up with ways of viewing ‘difference’ as a positive and compelling form of individual and collective currency. However, the acknowledgement of that difference will require every hegemony to relinquish power against those marginalized because of its existence, to crumble and to start all over again. Until then, “non-racialism” remains a fable perpetuated to keep guilty and violent consciences at bay. This article first appeared on Lelo Macheke’s blog, Suburban Zulu, in 2015 and has been revised and republished with the author’s consent.
To be young, and black, and umfazi, oyisitabane. by Thenjiwe Mswane
Ngiqalaphi? The rape of womxn at the hands of comrades, their partners, friends, family? The general state of living in a country which feels like the dumpster of the worst trash, the trash depot for non-recycable trash, the trash that doesn’t decompose - it just gets worse? Living in South Africa as umfazi omnyama oyisitabane is an everyday extreme sport. Othi ngiqale la: I recently wrote a book. “Uyasabeka: umthola amagama wesiZulu”. The book includes Zulu word searches with izinganekwane, kanye nezaga zesiZulu for black children. It is dedicated to my nephew, a black boy. He is six. I feel deeply for him. I’d cut someone for him. He may grow up to be a man in a world where the men in our lives are our biggest threats. I have wondered often about how to create a better generation of men, not because I care for men, but I am afraid of them. I fear the possibility that the boy I love with all my heart may come to violate a womxn, in any way. If it ever happens, I will scream that I believe her. To be young and black, and a womxn, and isitabane in this country is to live in perpetual fear. At home. Outside. Fear of the men that we love. Of the men that we do not know. Of the black man. Of the white man. Of the white man’s wife. Ngiyasaba. So I worked to invest in the beautiful ones that are here. Maybe from them the beautyful ones will be born. I’m creating a utopia where I create work for little black children. uMkhabayi KaJama, uNandi KaSenzangakhona, uMagogo kaDiniZulu, uNomkhubulwane. These are words of black women who shaped, in many ways, “Zulu identies” (whatever that may mean). You know how easy it is to stand next to comrades who will trace the entire chronology of the men in the Negritudian/Afro-Pessimist/Pan-Afrikanist movements, but never the names of black womxn who have contributed to how we are black, how we are here, how we are today? I never want the boy I raise to not know the names that saved him. I want him to remember me, whatever his fight. So that this country is easier; for him and for those like me. We do the work of healing: ourselves and others. Call it art. Bleed on papers, call it poems. Weep on stages, call it theatre. Art. Writing ourselves into existence is the only way I survive as a black womxn who is isitabane in this country.
isiZulu Word Search u e h k a y i m u a
l k m a a i l z m d Mkhabayi Magogo
u e l k i d n a n i
k d o t h i j p n u
n n a a n a w t m i
u a k l k w b h n m
l h d o g o g a m z Nandi Ndlunkulu
d t l p n n w l y x
n d l o v u k a z i mtwana Ndlovukazi
Locate the given words in the grid, running horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.
u l u z i n i d a k
contributors Akhona Mdletshe
(she.b. 1994) Her style of drawing is subtle and minimalistic. Most of her work predominantly captures the confidence of women with equally confident and precise lines, each stroke emphasising the delicateness of their femininity. The illustrations feature women in their most natural element, nude, or half nude. Akhona’s inspiration stems from women and love.
PHATSTOKI (pronounced phat stoki) is a Joburgbased DJ who describes his/her/their sound as “non-genre specific”. PHATSTOKI is known for her surgical transitions and her ability to mix a range of sounds, reading the room to get your body grooving, whatever the hour, whatever the mood. A DJ trained on the dance floor, PHATSTOKI’s flawless rhythm and sense of motion are a beauty to behold.
Maneo Refiloe Mohale
Maneo Refiloe Mohale (she/her) is a South African editor, feminist writer and poet. Her work has appeared in various local and international publications, including Jalada, HOLAA!, The Beautiful Project, From the Root Zine, and The Mail & Guardian. She was the 2016 Bitch Media Global Feminism Writing Fellow, where she wrote on various topics, including race, media, queerness and survivorship. She was also longlisted for the 2016 Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Award for her poem, Difaqane. She currently serves as Managing Editor of Platform Media.
Zaki Mlaba is a queerwomxn who is a full-time copywriter and a part-time poet. She is a humxn who is full of love, misery and words and hopes to share with the world.
An anthropology and psychology graduate, with an honours degree in psychology. Glow works in advertising as a content creator for LEGiT. While this maybe her day job, she spends her nights planning Youtube video entries advocating trans visibility, commenting on social issues, talking fashion and style if not discussing Oprah Winfrey or the philosophies and ideas which interest her. Some of her hobbies include reading books and journals on astrology, numerology, palmistry, and beating that face till it shapes up.
Lelo Macheke is a 22 year-old Rhodes University English Literature graduate that is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Journalism. He is also known as the “SuburbanZulu”, the alter-ego that is interested in disrupting and re-defining all things normalised and unquestioned. From ranting about the Great Dane gay elite on his YouTube channel, to probing the masculinities of rich Black kids in Northern Johannesburg, Lelo is deeply invested in unearthing the small differences in society, as he believes that no story is capable of telling truth without the element of nuance.
uThenjiwe is black, a womxn and isitabane. A Mdlwembe of a Guluva. My interests are vast from old school kwaito, to thinking about the black womxn anarchist school/3 day naked healing retreat I intend to one day open. My work in all it’s forms is black third-world radical feminist in approach, seeking to deconstruct power in all it’s forms. I also dearly love ganja, beer, and belly rubs. In that order. Unless it’s uMa who is asking, then just Belly rubs.
editorial team Wairimu Muriithi- Copy Editor Wairimu is a sometimes-writer, sometimes-editor, sometimes-student and fulltime reader. She lives, loves and cycles across Johannesburg, and sends messages and memories [home] to Nairobi. She has a thing for green coats. When she is not doing all the things mentioned above, she is asleep. Buy her potatoes to keep her happy.
Mpumelelo Msomi - Copy Editor Mpumelelo is yet another struggling writer always trying to be as interesting as he is interested, occassionally asking a glass of wine to bridge the gap.
Tiger Maremela - Founder and Designer A gender non-conforming transfeminine millenial hyphenate trying to make sense of the world by endlessly scrolling through the internet. Their work is interested in digitality, intersectionality and identity in the post-apartheid South African context.
spectrum.za a South African e-zine for black lgbt+ creatives and artists Volume 1 Edition 2 2017
COMING OCTOBER 2017