South African avant-garde artist Umlilo captures the political nuances of queer experiences in the documentary Mask.
Cape Town-based musician and all-round artist Umlilo has released his thought-provoking documentary The Black Sheep Twelfth Installment: Mask. The documentary, which goes by the simple title Mask, explores what it means to straddle gender lanes and identify as non-binary. Umlilo releases this autobiographical documentary on queer knowledge ahead of his highly-anticipated upcoming debut album Isambulo and the #LockdownJams Live concert, which gained popularity during the onset of lockdown, .
Umlilo, whose government name is Siya Ngcobo, narrates the story of his personal relationship with a mask — as both a performer and queer individual. A closer and deeper look at masks shows that they conceal the socio-political circumstances of the LGBTQI community in relation to the gender neutral reform of South Africa's identity coding on official documents. Shot in black and white, the documentary investigates the chasms that exist between government and the queer individual, and how that explicitly leads to the violence meted out on non-gender conforming individuals. Mask interrogates South Africa's neatly presented Constitution, while in reality queer individuals are exposed to various dangers, even, from government bodies such as Home Affairs.
Umlilo, brought up in a traditional yet matriarchal family, has a few alter egos and is well-versed with his mask, which always features in his performances. His electro music has garnered attention from Afropunk, VICE, Africa is a Country and many more. The symbol of the mask also reveals the painful manner in which members of the LGBTQIA++ suppress aspects of themselves for safety. Contrarily, Umlilo's performance journey depicts just how liberating the mask, when confronted and played with, can be for Black queer individuals. South Africa's introduction of a gender-neutral marker on IDs in February this year is admittedly progressive. But whether it will alleviate corrective rapes of lesbians and killings of transgender individuals remains to be seen.
Watch Mask below.
BLACK SHEEP - MASK www.youtube.com