restricted access Queer Media Loci: South Africa
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Queer Media Loci:
South Africa

"'From the Margins You Push So That the Center Implodes': Queer Media in South Africa," by Ruti Talmor, is the fourth entry to the Queer Media Loci effort of the Moving Image Review section, following earlier contributions that focused on Thailand, Israel/Palestine, and Hong Kong. This is our last entry, as editors, for this project. So we are most pleased to finish our work with this intimate conversation between Talmor and two South African lesbian scholars/activists/media makers, especially given the place that the South African nation holds within the Western imagination as well as the global queer liberation landscape. South Africa's unique situation, arising from the dismantling of apartheid and the production of new models for equitable citizenship, has allowed the nation to become an international leader in GLBQTI rights. Moreover, as with all QML essays, this contribution allows GLQ readers to learn from queer South African artists. Their daily lives and media practices extend but do not fully grasp the extent of social justice outcomes that egalitarian, nonracial democratic South Africa would have aspired to more than sixteen years after the transition from the apartheid government. The interviewees discuss how homophobia, differences within the queer community, poverty and joblessness, and sexualized violence continue to define their media scene. However, because of the significant role of government within the media sector and South Africa's government mandate for nondiscrimination, South Africa's possibilities for queer representation eclipse other national models that are locked more completely within capitalist funding structures. South African queer producers describe a kind of access and privilege within the film and television industry that many American media artists would envy. Yet less dominant capitalist financing has also meant the absence of a dedicated queer channel.

Talmor and her interview subjects explore the "great paradox" between the realities of South Africa's efforts to build equitable legal, representational, and [End Page 381] economic systems and the daily on-the-ground racism, sexism, and homophobia that still organize individuals' experiences. One delight of the QML effort has been to allow those who live, work, watch, struggle, and make media around the world to clarify the lived realities of their locus while addressing the rumors, fantasies, mistruths, or misunderstandings that circulate around a place as it is conceived by outsiders. Makgano Mamabolo describes this tension: "People want to essentialize Africa: Africa is poor, Africa is sick, Africa is weak, poor Africa. Now you have a new narrative: Africa is progressive, and the difference between it and the West is very small. If being gay looks the same in South Africa as it does in Europe or America, then what are you saying?"

Structured as an interview, this final entry also inaugurates a new method and discipline for this section. For her contribution, Talmor, a media anthropologist, converses with two lesbian South African media producers: Mamabolo, cowriter and coproducer of Society, a hit series on mainstream South African television; and Zethu Matebeni, cowriter, codirector, and coproducer of Breaking Out of the Box, a documentary that travels the film festival, academic, and activist circuits. A friend and colleague of these two prominent figures in the media arts scene of South Africa, Talmor opens the space of GLQ to an eloquent, open conversation between peers, African and Western, and models how we can and must gracefully listen to and learn from the rich and diverse experiences of queer media and social justice efforts internationally.

We thank Talmor for contributing such a generative entry to the Queer Media Loci series, and now pass the baton to Kara Keeling, the new editor of the Moving Image Review. We look forward to the places she will next take us. [End Page 382]

"From the Margins You Push So That the Center Implodes":
Queer Media in South Africa

This article offers a cross-sectional analysis of queer media production, exhibition, and reception in South Africa, homing in on lesbian media production through interviews with Makgano Mamabolo, cowriter and coproducer of Society, a hit series on mainstream South African television (2007, 2009-2010), and Zethu Matebeni, cowriter, codirector...