Difficult Love (On Campus Event)

April 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

On Monday I attended a showing of the movie “Difficult Love” presented by NOGLSTP as a part of the LBGTQIA film festival.  It discusses the lives of black lesbians living in South Africa.  The film which was partially directed, stared in and narrated by photographer and activist Zanele Muholi looks at the many challenges facing lesbians in this community.

The film begins by highlighting the difference in the rights granted to same sex couples in South Africa and the opinions of the populace as a whole.  South Africa is one of the countries that has legal recognized same sex marriage.  This had someone skewed my view of what the view of gays in South Africa was.  Some of the first shots of the movie are of citizens giving their opinions of gays and lesbians.  They were all resoundingly negative.  People showed confusion to the point and concern that the government has not passed laws to make that behavior and relationships illegal.  One Cameroonian man states that in his country you could be killed for that.  I found this extreme aversion to same sex couples to be very surprising and to set the scene for the rest of the documentary.

Zanele Muholi is a photographer and has produced series of images that question and stretch traditional African gender roles.  One of her exhibitions discussed in the movie was attended at a special early showing to a female government minister.  The minister left abruptly refused to open the exhibition and declared the photographs to be pornographic.  The images were mainly of South African Lesbian women holding one another.  Some of the images do contain mild nudity but it is quite obvious that the intent of the images is in no way pornographic.  They are striking and quite beautiful.  When shown to people on the street they all showed negative opinions of the images.  One women made a very interesting statement that has come up and been discussed in our class.  The idea that these images and black lesbians in general shine on the black community of South Africa as a whole in a negative light.

I think this was one of the most interesting points in the whole movie.  The women says that it makes the whole black community look bad and that homosexuality is a white problem.  This was discussed in an American perspective in our class.  That communities attempting to maintain a balance between integration and racial identity often see homosexuality as giving in to white culture.  While the homosexual rights movement may not be focused on the issues that are most important to black homosexuals.  Leaving these individuals in a sort of limbo.  This was even more interesting in this case because of apartheid.

Zanele Muholi  grew up during apartheid and any adults born before the early 1980’s would remember having lived under this system of discrimination.  So there is an additional sensitivity to anything that seems to return power to the white Afrikaners.  Zanele Muholi’s partner in fact happens to be white.  Some of her photography examines the remains of the apartheid power structure and how it impacts relationships.

The situation of South Africa’s past history makes it an extremely interesting place to see examples of how race, class and sexuality can all come together and the preasures it can put on both individuals and couples.  The movie was quite moving and examines an impressive number of issues in a short amount of time.  I would definitely recommend watching it.  It is in fact available on the internet in streaming format.

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