Black Men in Dress is part of a solo show by Sabelo Mlangeni which opens at the Stevenson in Johannesburg today. It comprises a series of portraits photographed at the Johannesburg and Soweto Pride, a yearly event for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community. These portraits remind Mlangeni of a childhood where, as he describes:
"Most communities had what we call 'uSis'bhuti'. This is a term used to describe a boy who behaves like a girl. Why then do we hate these boys when they have grown up to be men who dress as women? Why do we turn and call them names, pretending that we've never seen it? These are some of the issues I try to bring to the fore in this series."
As in Mlangeni's previous series Country Girls, a dramatic sense of fashion and a performative and playful manner is explored by gay men to engage with their sense of belonging and identity.
Along with Black Men in Dress, Mlangeni will also be exhibiting Iimbali, a series photographed at reed dances in KwaZulu-Natal and Swaziland. The performative elements of exhibitionism and ritual tie together these two seemingly different bodies of work, in which urban, homosexual celebration is juxtaposed with rural, heterosexual tradition.
The exhibition will be from 9 January - 24 February 2012, at the Stevenson in Johannesburg: 62 Juta Street, Braamfontein. For more info phone +27 (0)11 326 0034/41 or visit http://www.stevenson.info
Black Men in Dress
Mlangeni was born in 1980 in Driefontein near Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga. In 2001 he moved to Johannesburg where he joined the Market Photo Workshop, graduating in 2004. He won the Tollman Award for the Visual Arts in 2009. He has previously exhibited his Men Only, Country Girls, Ghost Towns and At Home series at Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg (2009-11). Recent group exhibitions include the 9th Rencontres de Bamako African Photography Biennial in Mali and the Lagos Photo Festival, Nigeria (both 2011); Appropriated Landscapes at the Walther Collection, Neu-Ulm/Burlafingen, Germany (2011); Figures and Fictions: Contemporary South African photography at the V&A Museum, London (2011); Possible Cities: Africa in photography and video, Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, Haverford College, Pennsylvania (2011); Afropolis: City, Media, Art, Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, Cologne, Germany (2010); and I am not afraid: The Market Photo Workshop, Johannesburg, Johannesburg Art Gallery (2010).