#BlackDragMagic – A collaborative project by South African creative and photographer Lee-Ann Olwage and drag artist and activist Belinda Qaqamba Kafassie. The project tells the stories of black queer, gender-nonconforming and trans bodies who grew up in the townships of Cape Town, where they have to navigate their daily lives. The project is about augmenting the power in these stories of daily township spatial navigation, migration, culture-,gender- and sexual-identity.
Belinda Qaqamba Ka-Fassie
The project was created to serve as a platform of expression for black queer bodies where they were invited to co- create images they felt told their stories in a way that is affirming and celebratory. #BlackDragMagic was shot in Khayelitsha, a partially informal township, located on the Cape Flats in the City of Cape Town. It is reputed to be the largest and fastest growing township in South Africa. The name is Xhosa for Our New Home. And for the subjects of #BlackDragMagic, the township is home and the space where they navigate their daily lives. In reality the township is also a space where they are subjected to harassment, violence and discrimination on a daily basis.
The process of creating the project became a radical and progressive act of activism to reclaim the township and to stand up against the overwhelming climate of discrimination black queer bodies face in the township.
The setting was chosen to showcase and celebrate the lesser known township drag scene that exists in Cape Town. Although Cape Town is known as Africa’s pinkest city and there has been an eruption of sequence, glitter and fabulous drag shows across the city, black drag queens are still being marginalised and excluded from mainstream drag. The art form of drag has been westernised and South African drag queens have often assimilated to these western standards of drag. There is therefore a need to celebrate and embrace African drag as an art that tells stories about Africans in Africa, the African way. It is an act of decolonizing drag.
The project also explores the role cultural identity plays in black queer identity and addresses the ways in which it is problematic. It is impossible to separate Xhosa and queer identity from one another. To erase a significant part of someone’s identity is to invalidate their full existence. This is problematic because it somehow gives muscle to the erroneous idea of homosexuality being perceived as ‘unAfrican.’
Telling stories expresses determination and resilience. To hear stories is to gain knowledge and sensitisation. It is therefore of paramount importance to not only challenge injustice but also bring about means in which the wider society can learn, unlearn and relearn. We hope that the project will serve as a platform to share these stories of resilience and oppression. And that these stories can act as a form of sensitisation so a deeper understanding and empathy can be gained through storytelling.
Lee-Ann Olwage is a visual storyteller and photographic artist from South Africa. Her work explores themes of identity, transitions and universal narratives through long-term collaborative projects. There is an overarching theme of celebration in her work and she is interested in using the medium as a mode of celebration and co-creation. Her long term collaborative projects allow subjects to engage in the co-creation of their stories and how they are represented. With the help of strong female mentors she is finding her unique voice and creating work that unapologetically says I’m here – this is me.
Belinda Qaqamba Ka-Fassie