intimate and powerful depictions of the LGBT+ community in Johannesburg. Despite its politics – South Africa was the first country in Africa to legalise same-sex marriage – hate crime against the LGBT+ community in South Africa has dramatically increased, making the representation and visibility of this community an empowerment and political tool. These seven portraits reflect Gxekwa’s personal trajectory and reflections as an image-maker.
In 2015-2016, Gxekwa used to sell clothes in a market in Maboneng, the inner-city art and fashion district of Johannesburg. Young men dressed beautifully would walk down the streets and to the market. Their clothing was different to what she had known. As the artist explains: ‘I come from a background where men wear black pants, a white shirt and a blazer, but the men here were wearing colourful pants with blouses and laces. There was something beautiful and exciting about that.’* Gxekwa used her camera to reach out to and engage conversation with the people that moved her by their self-confidence, energy and ‘star quality’*. Gxekwa’s photographic documentation of the LGBT+ community led her to meet black South African and Zimbabwean artists, designers and performers, some of whom became friends and recurring models in her work. Inspired by visual activist Zanele Muholi’s series Faces & Phases,
Gxekwa’s photographic practice alternates between the street and the studio, and more recently embracing play and performance. She works collaboratively with her photographed subjects during the image-making process, deploying various fabrics, textures, colours and make-ups to magnify their poses. A large part Gxekwa embarked on a journey to document the people she encountered and use her photographs as a record for the future.