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Their majesty

Another little note stolen from Alex Dodd’s Instagram account.

I finally got to see @muholizanele ‘s And Then You See Yourself @norvalfoundation today and wow, so much awe and respect.

Did I see myself? I think I did.

I recognise a certain manliness, for the want of a better word, that I’ve often felt on the inside of me. Felt it as a tomboy, playing with neighbourhood boys and felt it as a ‘fag hag’, for the want of a better word, frequenting gay clubs of Joburg and Montreal with my boyfriends in the late 90s and early 00s, and at other times too.

I recognise myself in the manifest changeability that underlies their many guises, poses, personae, incarnations – a certain willingness, no eagerness, to assume multiple versions of self – although not with nearly the same decisiveness or regal theatricality.

No, Muholi has ventured where I have dared not go – not even hungered to go. They have made many states embodied, visible and manifest. I am in awe of their courage.

So much ground has been gained in the bloody struggle for racial and gender freedoms since their work first came to light – and their contribution has been vast. Acknowledged, yes. And vast.

For me, one of the signal pleasures of this very concise and elegant exhibition was experiencing the curators’ – Khanya Mashabela and Owen Martin – use of the gender-inclusive pronoun ‘they/their’ in the wall text.

This may seem obvious to many. But seeing it on the wall, I recognised a triumph. I may be hetero and I may be cis, but having been born (also in Durban) into a violently binary world, I experience the plurality of the pronoun as liberating and progressive.

I admit I still fumble and stumble with it in my everyday speech, but I aspire to become fluent and expand myself through the agility of my own mind and tongue.

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