Queer Vernaculars, Visual Narratives

“It is all about using our own words and our own agency to speak for ourselves in a world that either tries to speak for us, speak at us, or ignore us entirely.”

Iranti-org is an organisation founded by Jabulani Pereira and Neo Musangi as a response to the lack of documentation of hate crimes against LGBTIQ+ persons. In addition to this, they realised that many queer African narratives were told by non-queer non-Africans. Beginning with their documentation of the brutal murder of Thapelo Makutle in Kuruman in 2012, Iranti-org has grown into a platform that documents various milestones for the Lesbian, Transgender and Intersex communities across Africa.

“We have had an overwhelmingly positive response from our allies and the LTI (Lesbian, Trans, Intersex) communities. I think in part due to the work we do to ensure that LTI stories are recorded rather than erased and forgotten, and in part due to our increasingly direct advocacy with business, government and the networking, training and knowledge-sharing events that we either co-ordinate or participate in,” states Iranti-org Writer and Social Media Officer, Kellyn Botha.

Still from ‘I RISE’

Their organizational aims are solidified in their slogan “Queer Vernaculars Visual Narratives”. The potency of this slogan comes when one unpacks each words. The use of ‘queer’ connects to a global remediation of the word, which in the past has been used in a derogatory context and as a form of othering people from the LGBTIQ+ community. This word has been reappropriated to form part of the queer communities own vernacular as an expression of pride and defiance.  It again emphasizes the importance of the community using its own voice in a world that consistently tries to speak for or erase LGBTIQ+ people and their experiences. Most of the stories Iranti-org shares are in some form of visual medium.

“Iranti means ‘memory’ in Yoruba after all, and thus it is our job to record what happens in the region, both horrific and inspiring, to ensure that our history as a community is not lost.”

With their desire to focus on the necessity for LGBTIQ+ people to speak for themselves, Iranti-org started a web series in December, having released two videos so far. The significance of this web series comes across through Botha’s statement that “it allows queer Africans to create content directed at queer Africans, without a benevolent ‘cishet’ saviour guiding the way.” In 2016 Iranti-org hosted a script-writing workshop with the then newly formed Africa Queer Media Makers’ Network. With the workshop facilitator Makgano Mamabolo, the Iranti-org team chose and refined stories that would feature as part of the web series. “We feel that the medium of telling these stories, that of using fiction and more artistic techniques than one might see in our documentation work, was an experiment on our part and one that we feel paid off.” The first two web series episodes are titled ‘Bruise’ and ‘I Rise’ – stories that Botha describes as possessing messages that transcend geographic location.

Check out the two episodes below. Follow Iranti-org on YouTubeFacebook and Twitter for their next episode.

‘I RISE’ sees writer Nigel Patel express emotions and thoughts on gender, cisnormativity and violence.

‘Bruise’, the web series’ first episode, looks into the mind of Busi, a non-binary trans person struggling with agoraphobia – the fear of wide-open spaces.

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