Period pains

Zanele Muholi's "Isilumo siyaluma" collection of work looks at the stigmas and violence black lesbians in South Africa face.
Posted 2 Nov 11 By Design Indaba Creative Work / Design News Comments
Zanele Muholi. Ummeli, 2011. (Image courtesy of the artist and Stevenson Gallery).
Zanele Muholi. Ummeli, 2011. (Image courtesy of the artist and Stevenson Gallery).

Between March and May 2011 three young black lesbians were brutally murdered in South African townships. The women were all under the age of 25 and it is believed that these women were all victims of brutal gender violence, specifically “curative rape” (and murder) in communities where homosexuality in women is not tolerated.

Activist and photographer Zanele Muholi’s work explores this pattern of “curative rape” and the stories of the victims of gender hate crimes.

Muholi latest body work Isilumo siyaluma, loosly translated from the Zulu to mean “period pains”, considers the desperate plight of black lesbians in South African, as they face rampant hate crimes and brutal killings.

On one level, Muholi explains, her work deals with her own menstrual blood and that secretive, feminine time of the month, “that has been reduced within Western patriarchal culture as dirty”. On a deeper level, Muholi sees her menstrual blood as a vehicle and medium for expressing the loss she feels when she hears about these “curative rapes”.

Isilumo siyaluma (2006 – 2011) can be seen at the Blank Projects gallery in Woodstock, Cape Town, from 3 to 26 November 2011.

Read our earlier interview with Muholi here.

Image: Zanele Muholi. Ummeli, 2011. Digital print on cotton rag of a digital collage of Menstrual blood stains. (Image courtesy of the artist and Stevenson Gallery).