Lehlogonolo Machaba, Tholang Motshumi and Yaya Mavundla. Picture: Supplied
Lehlogonolo Machaba, Tholang Motshumi and Yaya Mavundla. Picture: Supplied

Exhibition highlights the challenges facing black transgender women

By Kedibone Modise Time of article published Sep 4, 2021

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As Women’s Month comes to a close, an exhibition titled Layers of a Black Transgender Woman continues to gain momentum in highlighting the challenges facing transgender women across the African continent.

Presented and curated by transgender activist and media personality Yaya Mavundla, the exhibition showcases “different layers of women, interrogates identity and validate transgender women as women in a form of art” on their own terms.

This exhibition features black transgender women who are in the media and at the forefront of transgender visibility in South Africa.

The three women are Moja Love’s “The Way Ngingakhona” reality TV star Tholang Motsumi, Miss South Africa top 30 finalist Lehlogonolo Machaba and Mzansi Magic’s “Becoming” reality star, and award-winning transgender activist Mavundla.

Lehlogonolo Machaba, Tholang Motshumi and Yaya Mavundla. Picture: Terra Dick

Mavundla collaborated with South African photographer Terra Dick, who captured the photographs of the three women, while Nigerian illustrator Chukwudi Udoye interprets the images for this groundbreaking exhibition.

The title is inspired by the exhibition having different black transgender women with different stories told through text, voices, and art by different artists.

Lehlogonolo Machaba. Picture: Chukwudi Udoye

Elaborating on the inspiration behind the event, Mavundla said: “I knew working with transgender women who are visible in the media space and have made an impact in society and has inspired many people will help get the attention that the project needs.

“Going forward, when the exhibition gets extended, I will then add more black transgender women with different stories. I needed to further use my platform to bring change and help voice the issues we are facing.”

According to Mavundla, part of the exhibition will include conversations around media sensitisation, discrimination and stigma against trans women, pronouns, the importance of inclusivity and understanding gender identity.

“Transgender women are constantly having challenges when going to government facilities, and this was inspired by challenges of discrimination I have previously faced at both government hospital and police station due to my gender identity – where I was mocked, and I was not offered a service I had went to the facility for, which I know there are many transgender people that faces the same problems.

“Also, I remember when a dear friend of mine, Iko Mash, passed away. The media reported her as he and further brought back her dead name, which is something I do not wish to happen to any other transgender person.

“Transgender women at schools are denied to come to school with the uniform that is assigned for female learners because their ID books or birth certificate identify them as what biology assigned them, not who they say they are, which is a problem,” explained Mavundla.

On what she hopes South Africans will walk away with, she said: “We want people to understand that black transgender women are women.

“They deserve respect and equal opportunities as other women in this country.”

Mavundla added that while the public viewing will end on Tuesday, September 14, the conversations are being recorded and will be made available for streaming later in the year for a wider audience. Details will be released closer to the date.

Tholang Motsumi. Picture: Chukwudi Udoye

Highlighting the importance of supporting this initiative Steve Letsike, director of Access Chapter 2, said: “I believe this exhibition is a lesson to all of us, a template for us to follow and integration for all to adapt towards when stories are told by transgender women.

“We stand to support and build solidarity always.

Layers of a Black Transgender Woman” is currently open to the public at the Hill’s Women’s Jail in Braamfontein.

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