‘Out of This World’: 4 Joburg artists in new groundbreaking doccie talk queer and trans visibility

The long anticipated i-D documentary series Out of This World presented by Mykki Blanco, US queer rapper and vocalist, and shot in Joburg and surrounding towns, was released on 3 October to much hype. The first episode serves as an introduction to queer and trans experiences in South Africa post-1994, delving into sexual health, intimacy, solidarity and public safety.

Paying equal attention to highlighting black queer joy and pain with the same intensity, the audience is invited to navigate sex, sexuality and the streets with a handful of Joburg-based individuals including performing artists, fashion designers, models and activists. The second episode of the series features model Elle Rose van der Burg and fashion designer Rich Mnisi and delves into fashion, family and creativity.

We speak to a few of the doccie’s participants about queer and trans representation in contemporary South African media, the importance of creating a sense of community and what is still missing from current dialogue around queer and trans issues.

Elle Rose van der Burg
Model and trans activist

What do you think is the importance of representing queer and trans identities post-1994?
Representing modern-day trans narratives is incredibly important because we, as a community, are finally enabled with the tools to accomplish visibility. I wasn’t born prior to 1994 but I think I can safely say that being trans and visible wasn’t a “normal” or “valued” thing back. I say this because today I see no real history or reference to what trans-identity was like back then. That’s why I think it’s so necessary to represent trans-experiences today because unlike then we have some space (albeit very little) to successfully enable and lift trans voices in the greater narrative of existence.
How have you found ways of building community with other queer and trans people Joburg? 
The internet is the best tool for finding communities that may be hidden all around you. It’s really simple to find groups that align themselves with your views and interests. The same experience can be felt when talking about building a trans community. I have to be honest though, most of my trans-friends are scurried all over the world. It’s sad because I wish — although I understand the stigma and fear of being visible — more trans people in Johannesburg were loudly themselves. — Elle

Art collective comprising Desire Marea and Fela Gucci

What do you think is the importance of representing contemporary queer and trans identities?
Trans identities are under-represented and it’s important that they are given a voice because it gives our community a truthful diversity. This is especially important in the black context where every gender non confirming identity is erased under the umbrella of izitabane; a term often confused with trans identity.
What do you think is still missing from national dialogue around queer and trans issues? 
There isn’t enough conversation about classism within the queer and trans community and how privilege protects others from certain experiences. Disenfranchised queer and trans people face harsher realities as many of them are unemployed and have to rely on family for financial support, and sometimes those families are not informed about the queer and trans experience and may be violent towards them. The conversation around hate crimes also seems to be reactionary, in the sense that its only discussed when its rarely covered on a media platform. — Faka

Nkulsey Masemola
Model and psychology student

What do you think is the importance of representing queer and trans identities and experiences post 1994?
The importance is to reduce the number of transcrimes that were really high before South Africa got its ‘democracy’. Representing transpeople in a proper light, revealing and teaching people about who transpeople are helps others understand transpeople better and not commit heinous crimes due to misunderstanding.
How have you found ways of building communities with other queer and  trans people in Johannesburg?
I model and show my identity through fashion, I found people that like the same things as me and those who have a different style but tell their story through fashion. We all just kind of stuck together and built out own community
What do you think is still missing from national dialogue around queer and trans issues? 
Everything is still missing, I mean it’s great that they are being acknowledged and represented well but no one touches on the health care and I think that’s what should be discussed. — Nkulsey


*This article has been edited to reflect model Elle Rose van der Burg’s name change – she was previously known as Luke van der Burg*

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