Sex & Gender

event: black queer folx attend intersectional dialogue at the queers on smash’s first black queer social in cape town

May 17, 2016

Bodies and spaces are political; the Black Queer Social was no exception to this. Organized by Queers on Smash, the first Black Queer Social, held on the 30th of April, created a space for black queer bodies to gather and begin to tell stories where we were no longer asked to be black first and queer later or told that we were too queer to be black. Held in Cape Town which has been labelled as the ‘gay capital of Africa’, the event challenged the idea that the city is an all-inclusive space. Acknowledging the intersections of identity in a way that predominantly white gay Cape Town does not, the event brought together activists, musicians, authors, poets, filmmakers, artists and all-round creatives for a day of rants, discussions, laughter and ratchetry.

Complex questions representative of the bodies in the space were posed, such as how we navigate and survive the connected systems of racism and queerphobia. Suggestions were provided that the idea of queer black excellence be advanced to combat ignorance, and were necessarily and legitimately critiqued. There was a strong affirmative response in the form of snaps, claps and yassses to the radical understanding of queer black bodies and their capacities as enough, and how we ought to be cautious of aiming for exceptionalism.

By Nigel Patel, AFROPUNK contributor

As the afternoon progressed and the drinks began to flow, music by Neo Baepi opened up the space to some black queer movement, providing a warm-up for the twerking that would ensue. Creation became the focus of the space as Buhle Ngaba spoke on her book ‘The Girl Without A Sound’. What began as a birthday present for her Aunt has become a must-read for everyone. In addressing important issues of representation, Buhle’s book became what many of us never had growing up, that is, #booksforblackgirls. The celebration of black queer creativity continued to flow as the Black Filmmakers Festival team screened some of their work, encouraging black queer individuals to actively support each other. This message was carried through by, Phetogo Kgosierileng, the designer and co-owner of KgosiRay, who showcased some of his work and discussed his experiences and the difficulty of creative freedom when working with white individuals in what is a white dominated fashion industry.

The idea of liberation was a recurring theme at Black Queer Social, and what it meant to, and how it was expressed by each individual was different. Poet, Kyla Phil, in an important acknowledgement of positionality recognized the disparities between the liberation of queer sexual expression when compared to queer gender expression. In an effort to recognize that even in a black queer space certain voices that are systematically privileged over others will be louder, she relinquished her space as a cis-woman to provide He-Jin Kim, a trans activist to share her poetry. He-Jin spoke of writing love letters to the bodies in the space, bodies which were war zones, where battles took place; sites of oppression. Free from the gaze of whiteness and cis-heteronormativity her words vitalized the space to a state that can only describe as queer black joy.

Closing off the formal programme for the evening the talented Obie Mavuso, the curator of the Queers on Smash, who is a creative savage, hip-hop soul singer, blessed us with some tracks from her EP ‘Cosmic Fire’. This was followed by Andy Mkosi, a rapper and photographer, who is re-writing South African narratives though images and music, which had everyone in the room jamming. With the concentration of black queer magic in the space, the logical way to end the night was with a Queer Black Formation through the screening of Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’


As the Black Queer Social came to a close, reflections on the space were aired, ending with the powerful words from an individual who spoke of how the day had provided them with a space where they could be completely unapologetic, and say “bye to the boys and Becky’s with the good hair!” Critically, they commented on how they were reminded not to over romanticize black queer spaces because “individuals will always be at different points in their journeys and that our marginalized identities do not absolve us from being able to marginalize with in our own communities.” Their thoughts reminded us of the need to both celebrate our identity yet be able to reflect on ourselves in order to grow. So as the next Black Queer Social moves to Johannesburg, we aim to celebrate our identities, but also to learn, contest and unlearn ideas around what it means to be a queer individual of colour.

Photos by Meegan Mitchell