There exists an expression in the Xhosa language: “funda ukuzimela nge nqayi elangeni.” But what if the head is as soft as a yolk and the sun blazes over 300 degrees? Ukufunda ukuzimela nge nqayi elangeni means to be able to stand and rely solely on your head. As a form of strength, a form of stability and inevitable as your compass. Your guiding light.
But what happens when that head is riddled with anxiety about what it means to exist as a queer body, and more so as a black queer body. Too ‘black’ to exist in a ‘no blacks!’ community, too femme to be in a ‘no femmes’ society, and too queer to fit into the black community.
The project Inqayi Elangeni is a visual poem created as a collaboration between South African photographer Lee-Ann Olwage and the artist and subject of the series Lusi Mahote.
The project was created to highlight the mental struggles members of the black, queer community face. A struggle that is often hidden from the pubic eye. The LGBTQI+ community has higher incidences of mental problems because of the experience of a hidden, fragmented sense of health and well-being. In a world structured as heterosexual, everything else is seen as wrong. Not fitting the norm is bewildering. Too little integration with society or a community can lead to mental health problems. Experiences of social exclusion, discrimination and prejudice impact on mental health, and people who identify as LGBTQI+ have significantly higher rates of depression, suicide, and anxiety disorders than their heterosexual matched peers.