Queer Belonging in Durban, South Africa: Thoughts from the Zanele Muholi Homecoming Exhibition
Keywords:queer, LGBTQI , belonging, public art, Durban
In this article, I seek to queer belonging in a post-apartheid city space. I will do this by taking a queer orientation towards a particular public space—the Durban/eThekwini City Hall in South Africa, and a particular set of experiences I had there during the Zanele Muholi Homecoming exhibition in 2017–18. I will also seek to use these to unsettle the concept of belonging. This queering happens at two levels. First, how the relatively mainstream or institutional space of City Hall space was queered through the exhibition of a black queer artist at the Durban Art Gallery. Given that the City Hall was built to symbolise Britishness in the colonies, this occurrence, although momentary, is illuminating. Second, during my experiences at the exhibition there were several moments which stuck with me. I take one of these which took place with my mother and reflect on it to complicate our understandings of belonging. Ultimately, belonging operates in complex ways within post-apartheid cities demonstrated by one particular place and experience in Durban. For LGBTIQ+ people, belonging is many things. In this article, I demonstrate the possibilities of public art to claim belonging in a city not designed for queer black life, and some of the slippages and productivity of “not belonging” using the notion of reciprocity.
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