For all our differences and multiplicity, South African lesbians/Queers, born in the 80’s and growing up in the 90’s – the Black womxn we crushed on were pretty predictable. It is a UNIVERSAL FACT (AfricaCheck me boo) that crushing on these womxn is part of you earning your dyke/lesbian/Queer badge!! If you didn’t it might be questionable whether you’re really are Queer, honestly, truly, you might need to go through your lesbian/Queer application process again!!
Being a baby dyke in the new Rainbow Nation was difficult – I think for the longest time Lesbian/Queer people didn’t exist. Not on our screens, the books we read nor the educational material we had at school. I think the first time I came across any literature or images of lesbian relationships was through an erotica site – don’t ask me how I found that. And for the longest time there were no images of black lesbian/queer relationships. Below are some of the womxn I crushed on – Black womxn who were breaking boundaries through their fashion, hairstyles, music and just sheer brilliance!!
Bonnie is your quintessential baby dyke dream!! Short hair – in fact I think she was bald – intense confidence on screen, exuding an intense sense of authority!! I think I first met Bonnie through Technics Heart of the Beat, she hosted the show with Glen Lewis. I was hooked upon sight! She absolutely fascinated me. You don’t understand, I was FASCINATED!! She had spunk, bald, and bold; she was it. I mean how could I not have fallen in love – SHE WAS THE BALD HEADED QUEEN OF MY DREAMS!!
On a serious note, I think seeing Bonnie made me realise – through visual representation – that I could create my own version of beautiful. That my whole image and existence could be fashioned around what I want to look like to myself!! LIBERATING!! My physical external expression of me was an expression of my internal self and that’s all I needed to be. To a Grade 7 pupil growing up in the “New South Africa” Bonnie was part of the group of womxn who showed me the path to self-reclamation. And yes, I am bald as hell today!!
I once jokingly said to a friend that I am a power-bottom. Being a power-bottom is both a sexual and political position and it implies exactly what it says – F%8CKING THE SYSTEM FROM BELOW!! And that was Lebo Mathosa, kasi girl with huge amounts of talent who went on to be the most aggressive femme I have ever seen. I don’t think there is an artist in our music industry who embodies the BITCH-I-GOT-THIS-SHIT vibes Lebo Mathosa had. She could be sexy and vulnerable whilst calling the shots and telling you exactly what to do and how to do it; balance!
She wasn’t afraid to colour outside the lines and make it look dangerously sexy!! Remember her platinum blonde hair and amazing outfits!! In all that power sexiness she was vulnerable and incredibly insecure about her artistry – her ability to embody all those spaces of existence made me realise I didn’t have to be one singular thing – that in fact all aspects of me were needed in order to create a more holistic experience.
KingTha (Thandiswa Mazwai)
I think even heterosexual womxn would turn queer/bisexual for KingTha – she is everything, really!! As Bonnie Mbuli taught me bold baldness, Thandiswa taught me the importance of being grounded in who you are and where you come from. Growing up in the Rainbow Nation, it was easy to believe that your Blackness – the hardships which came with it – were part of a past. That in effect all that “unpleasantness” of Apartheid i.e your Blackness, needed to be left behind in order for us to move forward into the Rainbow nation. Going to “multi-racial” schools it was easy to believe that assimilation was part of the Rainbow nation – not only assimilation into whiteness but assimilation into the heteronormative, the “normal”, the “ordinary”.
Mazwai said no – I remember watching the video to Thathi sgubu by Bongo Maffin when she removes her wig and she is shaved bald ON CAMERA!! I cheered when I saw that – it would take a couple of years in Grade 10 for me to cut my hair bald and understand what a liberating act it is!
It was Mazwai’s relentless need for reinvention and self-determination and articulation which has brought me back to her. Her music is not just nice sounds but an emotional, spiritual journey of continuous self-discovery and self-articulation. Acts which womxn are explicitly discouraged from doing in this country.
THREE words – RIBBON OF RHYTHM!! I hung on every word she uttered – and this says a lot since I absolutely HATE poetry!! Except anything by Lebo, Stacy-Ann Chin and Audre Lorde!! From the womxn I have written about above, I drew inspiration on multiple levels – emotional, spiritual, physical – with Lebo Mashile I learnt the importance of taking pride in your intellectual abilities and being unafraid to stand up for your principles and beliefs. As the passion of teenage angst subsided I followed Lebo Mashile through what could be termed controversial moments – which today would just be considered Black “woke” twitter mantras.
Who can forget her rightfully demanding an apology from TRUELOVE magazine for altering her curves, this was after she had without missing a beat dragged the misogynistic Eric Miyeni for his fatphobic comments or that time she called our racist Gareth Cliff for using black bodies for racist white humour??!! Lebo Mashile was woke before we knew what that was and I loved it!!! She played a key role in affirming my sense that there was something wrong with the world and that “something” was the racist, misogynoir that I would only learn the “academic terms” for later in life.
All these womxn inspired the lesbian in me – I draw various parts of myself from their ability individually and collectively to inspire my road to self-determination, reclamation and articulation. Each of them I say thank you!