Pride & Loss at Jenkins Johnson Projects

Art Scene

Pride & Loss at Jenkins Johnson Projects

In an informative documentary photography exhibition at Jenkins Johnson Projects, the dual nature of life for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community in contemporary South Africa is presented in nuanced complexity. The group exhibition, Pride & Loss, was curated by Zanele Muholi, a photographer/African visual activist who had a solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 2015 and participated in last year’s Performa 17, a premiere performance art biennial held in New York City since 2004.

Lerato Dumse, Nginani, 2014, Archival inkjet print, Courtesy of the artist and Jenkins Johnson Projects, NY

The exhibition features work by members of theInkanyiso collective, which includes: Muholi, Thembela Dick, Lerato Dumse, Boitumelo Nkopane, Collen Mfazwe, Thembi Mthembu, Lindeka Qampi, Velisa Jara and Lebogang Mashifane. The collective’s goal is to produce, educate and disseminate information on the LGBTI community and marginalized people through photography and visual activism. Wall text by Lerato Dumse in the exhibition articulates this purpose, “Documentation allows for the visibility and dialogue creation on our existence and resistance as we continue to experience our lives as members of the South African society, who are at times discouraged from living openly, fearing for our safety.”

Thembi Mthembu, A Free Bird, 2018, Archival inkjet print, Courtesy of the artist and Jenkins Johnson Projects, NY

Issues of pride and loss, visibility and invisibility, or celebration and protest echo throughout the work. Images of funerals, memorials, mourning citizens, marching citizens, and exuberant youth share the walls of the exhibition space, offering an experience of the emotional complexity of the LGBTI communities claiming of full citizenship. The juxtaposition of these experiences within the LGBTI community is pointedly articulated in wall text as well, “The question is often, to have a march or to have a parade? This is the bone of contention that has drawn the line and remanufactured the racial divide envisioned by the architects of Apartheid.”

Collen Mfazwe, LGBTI Community Showing Their Respect for Their Fallen Comrade, 2017, Archival inkjet print, Courtesy of the artist and Jenkins Johnson Projects, NY

The murder of black lesbians is of central concern as the layered implications of being female, black and a member of LGBTI community raise the stakes for those who live visibly amongst their neighbors. Although South Africa legalized same sex marriage long before the United States in 2006, staggering statistics indicate that 40% of South Africans know someone who has been killed for being “suspected” of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender behavior. One victim of gender-based violence highlighted in the exhibition is Fezeka Ntsukela Kuzwayo, the courageous woman who accused South African president Jacob Zuma of rape in 2005. One can only hope that international exposure to the plight of LGBTI communities around the world can aid in holding societies accountable for equal protection under the law for those whose lives are in grave danger, still, in the 21st century.

Collen Mfazwe, Moloi’s Farewell Flowers, 2017, Archival inkjet print, Courtesy of the artist and Jenkins Johnson Projects, NY

PRIDE & LOSS, Curated by Zanele Muholi at Jenkins Johnson Projects is open through June 23, 2018.