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Born Naked honours queer stories

Kopo Jake Nathane and Lethabo Bereng play the roles of Blaq Widow and Queen Bling in a production about the struggles of LGBTQ community. Picture: Supplied

Kopo Jake Nathane and Lethabo Bereng play the roles of Blaq Widow and Queen Bling in a production about the struggles of LGBTQ community. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 24, 2022


To walk a mile in a drag queen’s high heels - that is what a new play at the Baxter Theatre seeks to do in highlighting the LGBTQ community experiences in South Africa.

Born Naked tells the story of two young drag queens, Blaq Widow and her drag mother, Queen Bling.

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The duo unpack their relationship on a train, in drag pageants and in dressing rooms. Aptly named, Born Naked, weaves together the complex stories that queer people experienced in vibrant, colourful and sometimes violent communities.

The production seeks communicate the message that society has a collective responsibility and action towards the queer community.

The story also pays homage to the life of Thapelo Makhutle, who was brutally murdered in a violent hate crime in the Northern Cape in 2012. Makhutle was killed because he identified as gay in the conservative community of Kuruman.

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Director Kirsten Harris said it took her six months to research the content for the play.

“The script is informed by real South African stories, with specific reference to Thapelo at the end,” she said.

“I remember reading his story 10 years ago and it was as if something shifted in me. I couldn’t begin to imagine that we had cultivated a society where we allowed this to happen,” she added.

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Born Naked’s complexities came in with having to research what it meant to be a queer person in 2012. It meant dealing with the past and the present.”

Harris said back in 2018, writer Stephen Kotze shared an eight-page script with her for a one-act play, which she later devised into a production with the two-hander cast members, Kopo Jake Nathane and Lethabo Bereng.

Harris said the play is a reminder of the call to action for a much-needed hate crime bill.

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“It’s 2022 and it still hasn’t been implemented yet. Thapelo is only one story but there have been so many since,” she said.

“I hope that we can cultivate a society that is safe for us all to live in.”

The Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill was placed before Parliament in 2018 and seeks to reduce offensive speech and curb hate crimes. The bill, despite going through public comments and lapsed in 2019, is yet to be passed.

Bereng, who plays the role of Blaq Widow, said he made it his mission to always use his platform to advocate for the community that he represents.

“There is a lot of groundwork we still need to do as a community, but also as a collective people,” he said.

Nathane, who identifies with the pronouns they/them and plays the role of Queen Bling, said being part of the production meant they could tell their truth.

“It’s a moment to let stories out and let the voices be heard. Theatre is a vocation for me that has helped me heal through my pain,” they said.

“I want Born Naked to help other people’s experiences of sharing their truth.”

Nathane said they believe that representation is the key to changing narratives.

“Throughout history, queer people have either been silenced or ostracised. Theatre is a moment for us to come together and have discourse about what it is to exist today,” they said.

“It’s crucial for every person, from politicians to actresses, to know that there are people that exist that are different and that’s okay, but how do we make those differences shine so we can move forward and be better?”

Bereng said it was time to change the mainstream queer narrative that is mostly centred around humour.

“There’s always a gay or trans man that works at the salon as a nail technician. We rarely see queer stories empowered,” he said.

“It’s always one dimensional and for comedic relief. With this show, we wanted to have that but also show the reality of what the queer community faces.

“We are being discriminated against every day and looked down on.”

Born Naked will be on show at the Baxter Theatre until April 30. Tickets can be purchased through Webtickets.

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