On Thursday, July 26, the Michael Stevenson Gallery in Cape Town had an opening: Mo(u)rning. Photographic and other works by Zanele Muholi. Muholi had lost much of her work a couple months earlier in a more than suspicious burglary, and so the exhibition was a meditation on mourning, the processes of receiving and releasing the dead and the lost, and morning, the processes of a new day, of another new day. Those who know Muholi’s work will not be surprised to hear the exhibition was brilliant. Rooms upon rooms of portraiture, of lived experience, of love. Video installation merged with photography merged with graffiti and poetry. One wall held, or exposed, Makhosazana Xaba’s poem, “For Eudy”:
I mentioned her name the other day
but blank stares returned my gaze
while all I could see was:
The open field in Tornado
Open hatred on the field.
I thought I could explain
but the rising anger blocked my throat
cause all I was thinking was:
This tornado of crimes
is not coming to an end.
Did anyone read a manifesto
that has plans to stop hate crimes?
Which party can we trust to bring
this tornado of crimes to an end,
an end we’ve been demanding?
How should we pen that cross
and put the paper in its place
while we remember painfully
that the open field in Tornado
is forever marked by her blood?
Name me one politician
who can stand up and talk
about the urgency to stop these crimes,
one who can be counted, to call them
what they are. Name me one.
Go, celebrate Freedom Day,
while we gather and stand
on this open field in Tornado
shouting for the world to hear:
Crimes of hatred must stop!
The next wall had the following scrawl:
Somber? Grim? Hopeless?
No. The night of the opening, the space among the pictures, the testimonies, and the videos was a space of celebration, of hugs and winks and laughter and more hugs, a space of joy. When the communities of local Black lesbians and their friends came together, the event created the joyous space. It was an opening. For one night, in South Africa, the work of mourning is the work of morning.