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16 Days of Activism ~ The community talks about acceptance, violence
and loss

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


Hector Pieterson Museum 16 Days of Activism with Iranti
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.



16 Days of Activism ~ A Solidarity Gathering of families and LGBTI youth

South Africa, 8 December 2012

Over the past year, we have witnessed an alarming number of attacks on queer bodies. Many did not survive and were killed in the most brutal of ways. We remember Thapelo Makuthle, Sanna Supa, Andritha Morifi, Sasha Lee Gordon, Vuyisa Dyanti, Sihle Sikoji and so many others who have been killed this year. Parents and families are almost never ready for the news that a family member has been murdered. It is much more complex to grapple with sexuality, identity and death and in moments of grief a much larger LGBTI community experiences secondary trauma and is deeply pained by the loss of our friends and loved ones.


We cannot fully understand why so many Lesbians, Gay men, Transgender and Intersex persons are killed in South Africa. While the world continues to highlight that South Africa has one of the most progressive constitutions and laws protecting our sexual identity, it has not been possible to fully enjoy these rights as young LGBTI persons face physical harassment, ridicule and death on daily basis. We have to find various strategies that could effectively address crime and violence. We have to find creative ways of reducing hatred and stereotypes. We need a police system that we trust and believe in as more than administrative paper pushers. We must trust and work with the Police and other government departments in working towards ending these homophobic and transphobic attacks.

Iranti and the Hector Pieterson Museum met and planned a joint programme that will use the museum as a space of solidarity in our fight against being violated by our fellow citizens and by the government. The Hector Pieterson Museum commemorates the struggle for freedom against the tyranny of Apartheid. We bring together our current struggles, as we have not yet won the right to fully enjoy South Africa’s democracy. Systemic failures, such as poor police investigations into violent crimes, a delayed judicial system and the absence of a law that guides the judiciary on hate crimes further frustrates our need for justice. Not just justice, but justice that ensures that families can begin to move on and begin a process of healing. But this is not possible as sexual orientation and hate crimes are omitted from the procedures of state prosecution.


Intersex Africa (TIA)

Transgender Intersex Africa (TIA) commemorated International Transgender Day of Remembrance in November.  Photograph by Jabu Pereira


Irant-org and the Hector Pieterson Museum support transgender support at the Solidarity meeting December 2012

Transgender activists gather to commemorate the lives of those who died due to transphobia. Photograph by Jabu Pereira


Your Silence Will Not protect you campaign by iranti-org

Click image for a larger version


Your Silence Will Not protect you campaign by iranti-org

Click image for a larger version


16 days of Activism against Gender Violence 2012

This year’s 16 Days Campaign will continue with the global theme: From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women! This year’s Campaign marks its third year of advocacy on the intersections of gender violence and militarism.


The sub-themes of the Campaign are:

  • Sexual and gender violence committed by state agents, particularly the police or military
  • Proliferation of small arms and their role in domestic violence

This year Iranti will join the campaign to reduce gender violence in our communities. Iranti in collaboration with the Hector Pieterson Museum in Soweto, aim to raise awareness of the impact of Gender Violence on LGBTI Youth, their parents and the community at large. Over the past years we have witnessed and experience and increasing number of deaths and injuries against LGBTI persons. Black Lesbians have been the main target of the attacks. Many of the deceased Black Lesbians are themselves parents and sadly many children are orphaned and left in the hands of their grand-parents and extended families. So many families are left with severe secondary trauma and loss.


Over the 16 Days of Activism Campaign, Iranti and the Hector Pieterson Museum will come together to find creative methods of raise awareness to reduce homophobia and gender violence.



hector pieterson museum

The Hector Pieterson Museum is a large museum located in Orlando West, Soweto, South Africa, two blocks away from where Hector Pieterson was shot and killed. The museum is named in his honour.

Hector Pieterson Museum


about the 16 days

16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children is an international campaign. It takes place every year from 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) to 10 December (International Human Rights Day). The period includes Universal Children’s Day and World AIDS Day.

Information about 16 days of activism at the South African government's website










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