Top South African Transgender activist & disruptor, Yaya Mavundla disrupts erasure through art in celebration of women’s month in South Africa
“My existence as a black Transgender woman is a conversation, therefore whatever I do is a statement in response to those conversations” – Yaya Mavundla
Renowned South African transgender activist presents the Black, Trans & Bold exhibition at the historical Women’s Jail, Constitution Hill to disrupt erasure and celebrate Transgender women for their bravery, boldness, resilience, and excellence. The exhibition opens on the South Africa’s national Women’s Day, 09 August until 31 August 2023.
Yaya Mavundla, a multi-award-winning transgender activist, disruptor and multi-disciplinary artist, who recently caused a social media stair as her images headlined Zanele Muholi’s exhibition in Lizern, Switzerland and used around the city on billboards returns in South Africa to presents her debut exhibition of her paintings, a solo show titled Black, Trans & Bold. Mavundla’s first-ever series of paintings are interpreted from her historical images meant to erase the oppression of transgender women that they find themselves facing from time to time, and to celebrate their strength, resilience & boldness through art during South African Women’s Month.
In South Africa, many openly transgender women are unemployed and lack access to opportunities that are afforded to cis-heterosexual women in the country and because of this, some trans women unwillingly end up in sex work, abusive relationships, and odd jobs for survival which is what Mavundla escaped a few years back after being homeless and unable to make ends meet due to lack of opportunities. “I survived a lot, I survived death, I survived depression and mostly I survived losing me. I nearly gave up my passion for doing great things that I do now because there were no opportunities for someone like me and especially for me” says Mavundla.
With this exhibition, Mavundla who is known for her activism confronts the past experiences that saw her being not afforded opportunities that she deserved, to her understanding because of her gender identity, she is affirming herself and many other transgender women who find themselves in doubt of who they are and their worth.
Mavundla says the world preaches inclusion daily, she questions the true beneficiary of that initiative. She is determined to make sure that trans voices are heard and also to encourage Transgender people to choose themselves, see themselves, and validate themselves even if no one is doing so. “I grew up in an environment where there was no one like me, growing up in the deep areas of KwaZulu-Natal in Kranskop there was no Transgender person or openly queer person I could reference.”
“For many years I doubted my beauty and my strength, I believed I was not beautiful and worthy, people around me made me feel I was never good enough and I was less worthy than the other people, even compared to transgender women and queer people around me,” says Mavundla speaking on erasure, inclusion, beauty, and gender politics.
Mavundla who is still struggling to face and openly speak about the traumatic experiences she went through during her time being homeless in the city of Johannesburg hopes to encourage other queer people to know it is never their fault and also they must understand that sometimes you will face such situations and challenges alone, no one will want to associate with you when you have nothing and that should change”
“With this exhibition I am reflecting, finding strength and healing, I am looking at how far I have come and I am proud of the woman I have built in a world that has no structure for me to build from and I want with this exhibition all those trans women who have doubts that they can know it is possible, they are beautiful, worthy and enough”
Mavundla says as an activist, her mission has always been clear, it is Transgender visibility, I know with us being visible means those in power, the government, and society at large will see the need for change and inclusion of transgender people in everything that society is part of daily that includes access to health care, education, employment, etc. She further emphasizes that it is important that Transgender people are seen as equal and worthy like everyone else who lives in South Africa.
EXHIBITION OPENS 9 August 2023 and closes 31 August 2023
Images credit: Miles Majestic