Photography by Imraan Christian

Between and Beyond Binaries – Haneem Christian

Every single aspect of this cover was intentional. Every little detail holds great significance. Every hair is placed with purpose. Every jewel pays respect to both my heritage and my future. It is symbolic of me claiming my light and my purpose.

Haneem Christian on the making of her Bubblegum Club Cover

Metamorphosis. Transcendence… Transcend. Detailing the conceptualisation process of Imraan Christian’s second photographic visualisation of his sister, Haneem, for our latest cover, she shares the following words with me. “Black – ‘yet mystery and imagination arise from the same source. This source is called darkness… darkness within darkness, the gateway to all understanding’”. – Laozi

Growth from the notion of self, the visual manifests into an expression of Haneem–her multifaceted being. The image draws on the cyclic nature of life, the notion of death as well as to be reborn; “the essence of evolving” – metamorphosis. “…I have let many versions of Haneem lay to rest as I birth my Self again.”

An address to the duality she experiences within herself she shares, “I find myself existing in somewhat of a grey area, along the spectrum of light and dark, masc and femme- between and beyond binaries.”

Owning her queerness has bestowed upon her the jewels of self-knowledge. “Beyond just my sexuality and gender, when googled, the term queer refers to “the other”/strange/odd. I used to hate existing as the other or being different, but claiming my queerness has really empowered me and I’ve since found so much softness and beauty within that otherness…”

She turns to her own shadow as an exploration of the hidden parts of herself such as fear and ego that are described by her as elements hindering spiritual wellbeing. Pulling out these darker factors of herself from the world of shadows made allowance for spiritual understanding of the Self as well as an understanding of what it is that she wants to reach; self-actualisation.

The second picture rendition (cover image) sees Haneem stepping into her light of purpose and dabbles with the symbol of a lightworker. The lightworker is cloaked in black with eyes that spark like a black bird’s illuminated by red light, countering traditional depictions of the lightworker or a light energy. “What if black is a colour and energy of Godliness?”

Beyond the relation of power and pain, Haneem’s intent is to transform the pain of generations of Queer people into an all-encompassing power through educating with her art thereby centring the Queer person by creating work that traverses both the past, present and future.  “By doing so, young queer coloured kids will remember that they’re not alone, people like us have always existed and we can plant our roots firmly in that knowledge.”

Photography came into Haneem’s life during a time that she describes herself as feeling the most powerless and without agency. Photography lent the young visual poet (how she refers to her practice) a vernacular with which to express and represent her inner Self – discovered while journeying with “my other half, my big bro, Imie.”

Haneem expresses that her collaborative relationship with her brother began the day she was born, 23 years ago. “We have always known and never questioned the fact that our spirits have journeyed together way before we were born and that we were destined to be born [in the same] time [and] space together in order to fulfil our purpose.” She elaborates on the value of their dual expression by stating that her brother has always believed in her even before she did.

Recent works by the collaborative siblings include their cover for The Plug shot by Haneem and featuring industry heavyweights Zaid, YoungstaCPT, Rolo, Hayden and Imraan himself. The cover’s creative direction was done by Imraan Christian and shot at the Afrikaanse Taal Monument, a mesmerising move. Elaborating more on the experience Haneem states, “This cover was monumental for all of us for many different reasons. I think its revolutionary in itself that five, strong coloured men from different parts of the community and different parts of the industry have come together to join forces and ground themselves in the similar intention of uplifting our people through their chosen medium- do it together. And then to get a young, coloured, femme, queer person to shoot it is iconic. It’s really telling of the time we are in. We are claiming our space and no longer asking for anything- why ask for what is yours?”

Most recently Haneem has been working on a series acting as a celebration of young, queer, people of colour. In this body of work, she wishes to highlight the many different expressions of queerness. “I aim to celebrate the queer kids whose identities are neither represented or celebrated.”

Elaborating on this she states, “I started to wonder what life would [look] like if I could embrace both my queer identity and my muslim identity in one space…what would that look like? Because in this world we are only allowed to prioritise one intersection in certain spaces over the other. And this is greatly historical- during apartheid a lot of women and queer people were silenced by the narrative of prioritising our race over other intersections of our identity.”

Imraan’s first visual expression for this cover series sees “The Christening from an embodied ancestor, messenger, An Acharya (mentor) – an affirmation of our purpose in this space and time. She adorns me, and blesses my journey into this world as I accept and honour that which I was sent here for.” In other words, Haneem’s mentor RhaRha Nembhard crowns the king. “I’ve been observing and learning from RhaRha since her DroneGoddess era; a time where I was lost amongst the shadows of this world, long before I started shooting or found comfort in the shadows of my own spirit.”

“In 2016 Rha came to deliver a talk in cape town with Lina Viktor. As I sat in the audience I saw my Self reflected back at me, holding my gaze until I received the message of what I was sent to this Earth for. I will never forget that night and how much her words illuminated my spirit.”

The visual manifestation of their relationship (RhaRha and Haneem) captured in the delicate inner workings of Imraan’s camera is symbolic of a woman who has led a young mentee to her divine purpose and Godliness. “I am humbled beyond belief by the fact that my leader sees my light.”

Haneem states, “Noirwave leads a generation of kids of the New World Order. I really identify with the mission ‘to reclaim black as a colour power, elegance and mystery’. It speaks to my ideas of the radical reclamation of self and ideas thereof. We are humbled to follow their lead as children of Noirwave.”

Photographed at the cradle of mankind (area 58), “We took a walk through the vast lands at 58 toward the waterfall; listening to nothing but the sounds of our footsteps on the debris and the chirping of the birds above us- stillness. After our 20-minute walk through the forest we found ourselves at a waterfall that can only be described as other worldly. As we stepped into the silky, icy water I felt my spirit be overcome by an energy source so ancient and so assuring. A moment in time where only me, Imie, Rharha and Yannick existed and not time nor [any] human could disrupt that.”


Photography: Imraan Christian

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