/ 23 November 2016

​Where does it hurt?

New York based artist mahlOt SANSOSA chaired the panel "Our Lives as Theory: LGBTQI & African… remixed" in which activists Wanelisa Xaba
New York based artist mahlOt SANSOSA chaired the panel "Our Lives as Theory: LGBTQI & African… remixed" in which activists Wanelisa Xaba

“All the women
in me
are tired. – Nayyirah Waheed

“Show me on the doll where he touched you” is a phrase often used in child psychology as a way of encouraging and teaching child victims of sexual abuse manners of vocalizing what happened to them.

By using anatomically correct dolls, the method uses play but also relies on some sort of specificity. An ability to point out a wound. A scar. A bruise. A place where it happened, and while this method is accurate, it isn’t quite right. It’s correct, but not the most correct version. It lacks a fullness. Relies on limitation, on an inability to respond, always and everywhere.

This is where the concept of sampling, mixing and remixing can provide creative and imaginative interventions in how we can understand.

Remix: a new or different version of a recorded song that is made by changing or adding to the original recording of the song, or a variant of an original recording (as of a song) made by rearranging or adding to the original.

The first day of the third Black Portraitures conference featured a panel titled “Our Lives as Theory: LGBTQI & African… remixed”. In this context, the remix is the whole made up of the sum of its parts, of other parts. Of the past and the future as one. The remix as intersectional analysis, critique and understanding. Moderated by MahLOT SANSOSA, a mutli-disciplinary artist based in New York, the panel became a conversation on privilege, power, pain and positionality.

Alongside the Kenyan – Indian artist Brendan Fernandes and South African student activists Wanelisa Xaba and Seoketsi Tshepo Mooketsi, the conversation was a confrontation that acquired its own direction from its sharpness and pointedness.

Sometimes, for those of us who, in the words of Audre Lorde, “live at the shoreline standing upon the constant edges of decision crucial and alone”, surviving in this system [poor, black, queer] might just mean surviving this system. 

As Seoketsi Mooketsi reminded us, it’s what happens when you’re pulled over by police and the person on the driver’s license does not match the person sitting behind the wheel of the car. It’s the physical performance of your gender identity to justify another person’s politics. It’s the outrage of outrage. Of silencing your pain in order to maintain someone else’s comfort. Of continuously having to explain, and explain and explain until you are nothing but a pile a words and gender pro-nouns:


But mostly, tired.

Tired of having to be inventive to survive. Of having heads peered under your skirt. Hands combing through your hair and your history.

From mahLOt, it was clear that even the day’s academic nature would require disruption. That we could not sit in a well-lit, air-conditioned room and continue as normal. As if we don’t know that the conference, which was meant to take place at Wits University, was moved to Turbine Hall to insulate it from real politik. As if it were okay that each conference room had South African voices in the minority. As if all oppressions were the same, and all privileges homogenised.