16 Days of Activism ~ The community talks about acceptance, violence
South African parents, community leaders and LGBTQI youth talk about acceptance, violence and loss at Iranti’s historical event.
South Africa, 8 December 2012
by Neo Musangi
A moment of silence for victims of hate crimes. Photo by Nadine Hutton
At an open day event organized by Iranti , South African parents, community leaders and LGBTIQ youth had the opportunity to come together and openly talk about sexual orientation, gender identity and the pain of losing family members and friends in hate crime-related murders. This event, which was part of Iranti’s “16 Days of Activism against Gender-based violence”, was held at the Hector Pieterson Museum in Soweto on 8th December 2012. The Hector Pieterson Museum was a strategic venue choice for Iranti for three reasons: Firstly the Hector Pieterson Museum is one of South Africa’s most important sites of memory. Built in memory of a young Soweto teenager Hector Pieterson, the Museum embodies memories of the 1976 Soweto uprisings during which Pieterson and numerous other young Black South Africans were killed by apartheid police. Secondly, the Museum was, for Iranti, an important site in which the lives and deaths of South African LGBTIQ youth could be written in the national historical narrative. Finally, the Museum’s location in Soweto was crucial because of the continued violence against LGBTIQ persons in the predominantly Black Township.
This event held under the banner, “16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence: Amplifying the Voices of LGBTIQ Youth and Parents on Loss, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” brought together LGBTIQ youth, community leaders from around Soweto, activists and the families of recently murdered LGBTIQ persons in the country. In an emotional but courageous move, the families of Thapelo Makhutle and Andritha Morifi shared their struggles with dealing with the loss of Thapelo and Andritha in June and July 2012 respectively. Thapelo’s brutal murder in Soeding, Kuruman was the first big story that Iranti had documented resulting in an EU resolution on hate crimes in South Africa. For the very first time since his murder, Thapelo’s mother, brothers and extended family found the courage to appear and speak in public. Thapelo’s older brother, Ronnie Makhutle, shared with the gathering Thapelo’s last days with his family, his sense of humour and love of life and the family’s struggles with trying to find an explanation for his murder.
Immediately after documenting the murder of Thapelo Makhutle and that of Sanna Supa in Soweto, Iranti travelled to the small village of Mokopane in Limpopo to document the similarly brutal murder of a Lesbian young woman, Andritha Morifi. In an equally emotional narration, Andritha’s sister Julia Morifi gave an account of Andritha’s life as an openly lesbian member of the family whose sexuality was never a bone of contention within the Morifi family. Julia appealed to the LGBTIQ population in South Africa to raise awareness on sexual orientation and gender identity within their families as a possible way of reducing risks associated with rejection.
The day took a different turn as Craig Matu’s mother, Mmapula Matu shared her story about Craig’s birth and transitioning. Craig Matu is a transgender activist from the Pretoria-based only organization serving South Africa’s Black transgender and intersex community, Transgender Intersex Africa (TIA). Mrs. Matu candidly shared with other parents and LGBTIQ youth her desire for a daughter prior to Craig’s birth, her battle with accepting her daughter as lesbian, the feelings of loss at the onset of Craig’s transitioning from female to male and finally her acceptance and love for her transgendered son.
At the end of an emotional but very successful and uplifting day, Iranti Director Jabu Pereira presented to the Makhutle and Morifi families photograph albums of our documentation of the lives and deaths of Thapelo and Andritha. This presentation of photographs was both an act of gratitude to the families for trusting us with their lives and stories as well as a symbolic act of a continued friendship and support. Iranti’s arts program was, at this event, supported by music from South Africa’s award-winning multi-instrumentalist Pops Mohamed and Nigerian-born Olufemi as well as poetry from spoken word artist Maureen Majola and Iranti’s Neo Musangi. The final act of the day was the creation of a mural of remembrance on which the people in attendance were asked to write the names of family members and friends that had been killed as a result of their sexual orientation and gender identity. This memory cloth was an appropriate therapeutic act after an intense day of mixed feelings of hope and despair, triumph and defeat as well as pain and celebration. This memory cloth is now part of Iranti’s arts and activism program.
Iranti and the Hector Pieterson Museum plan to host this event annually.