Months after the imprisonment and subsequent release of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA) and the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP) are publishing a groundbreaking book telling the stories of twelve lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons in Malawi.
The accounts in the book portray the joys of love and the heartache of rejection, the dangers posed by homophobia and hatred in communities, and the sublime comfort of close friends and relatives.Zanele Muholi recently published Faces and Phases, a series of black and white portraits commemorating and celebrating the lives of black lesbians.
According to the publishers, the twelve life stories are "intended to invoke compassion and support for the rights of African LGBTI people to live freely and harmoniously alongside their heterosexual counterparts in Malawi and beyond her borders".
The making of the book is fascinating in its own right: Dr Patricia Watson, an expert in oral history practice in South Africa, designed and facilitated oral history workshops in Malawi during which most of the 12 participants' experiences were recounted, recorded and translated into English.
Watson then worked with the transcripts to compose stories that were as close to the authors’ own words as was grammatically possible.
Notably, their real names were not used in the book out of fear for their safety.
The inspiring experiences in Queer Malawi are complemented by striking and intimate photographs of the 12 participants by the renowned and award winning lesbian photographer Zanele Muholi who agreed to do portraits of each of the authors.
“This book is to be applauded for making the homosexual voices of male and female Malawian nationals audible for all Africans to hear. It is through ordinary peoples’ stories that we are able to reconnect with our shared sense of humanity,” comments Fikile Vilakazi, the director of the Coalition for African Lesbians.