From New York’s ‘Kiki’ to Jozi’s ‘Queens’

Date: June 12, 2017
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On the last day of May, the Swedish Embassy in South Africa screened two films Kiki and Jozi Queens that focus on the LGBTQI community. Kiki, an American-Swedish co-produced documentary set in New York focuses on several young LGBT people of colour as they participate in contemporary LGBTQI African- American ball culture.

The documentary exploits themes such as coming out, isolation, community support, HIV & AIDS and the quest for identity. The documentary contrasts the isolation and fear that most of the young LGBTQI people face growing up including being kicked out by their families with the support provided within the close-knit Kiki communities where certain members serve as house leaders and take up the actual responsibilities of mother and father.

The outfits and the ballroom dances are fierce but there are also struggles with HIV, death and uncertainty negative political policies that target the LGBTQI community. The second film, Jozi Queens shot in Johannesburg in 2015, documents the lives of gay and Trans participants in the Miss Gay Jozi pageant. It seeks to shed light and knowledge on the gay community within South Africa.

The screening was followed by an interesting panel discussion that sought to connect the themes in both films with the overarching issues that LGBTQI community in South Africa face. Part of the discourse was the acknowledgement that even within the ideas of LGBTQI communities, there are stratifications along class, economic power and so on, that keep the community separated from each other. Some queer people are excluded within certain spaces and there is a need to find some common ground for all. The other emerging question was who is curating and documenting the stories of LGBTQI people and in doing so are they making these stories palatable for a certain audience. How can LGBTQI amplify their own stories which they have been telling? The closing remark was the need to move away from discussions on marginalization to doing actual support work in the communities.

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