Son of the Soil… Daughters of the Land
Dill, L., Vearey, J., Oliveira, E. and Martinez Castillo, G. (2016) “Son of the Soil…Daughters of the Land”: poetry writing as a strategy of citizen-making for lesbian, gay, and bisexual migrants and asylum seekers in Johannesburg AGENDA 30(1) 85-95 [OPEN ACCESS]
South Africa’s Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Freedom Charter are globally ground-breaking for providing provisions of non-discrimination, and, of particular note, on the basis of sexual orientation. Since the introduction of these protective frameworks, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ) communities, allies, and advocates in the country have won major legal battles on these issues; however, in spite of these successes, LGBTIQ communities continue to face hostility and violence. As a result, South African LGBTIQ individuals often travel to urban centres, such as Johannesburg, in the hope that these spaces will be more tolerant of their sexual orientation and gender identity; the reality, however, suggests otherwise. Moreover, despite South Africa’s designation as a safe haven for LGBTIQ communities, migrants from other African countries — where same-sex relationships are criminalised — are overwhelmingly met with xenophobic verbal, emotional, physical, and political violence.
This article describes the authors’ engagement with nine lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) migrants and asylum seekers from Zimbabwe, Malawi, and elsewhere in South Africa during a weeklong poetry workshop exploring their lived experiences in Johannesburg. This workshop followed a body mapping and narrative writing workshop held previously with the same participants. This article investigates the themes identified from the body mapping process that guided the poems produced: migration, violence, citizenship, and freedom. The poetry created during the workshop illuminates how lesbian, gay, and bisexual migrants in Johannesburg work on a daily basis to build social trust as they demand to be seen and recognised, to enact their rights, to make and remake homes, to show up in public as Black people, as LGB individuals, and as human beings. We explore these strategies of citizen-making as informed by the LGB poets with whom we had the opportunity to work.
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