Op-Ed

Moving Through the World as a Young Black, Queer, Transgender Artist

Tiger Maremela pens an essay inspired by #OxfordEddiecated, a movement to get South African disability rights activist Eddie Ndopu to Oxford.

In the op-ed below, Tiger Maremela, a young black, queer and non-binary transgender artist, pens an essay inspired by #OxfordEddiecated, a movement to get 25-year-old disability rights activist Eddie Ndopu to Oxford. Ndopu recently became the first African with a disability accepted to Oxford, and although he was awarded a scholarship, the scholarship doesn't cover his disability-related costs. #OxfordEddiecated aims to raise more than R500,000 to cover the outstanding costs associated with Ndopu's admission.


Only certain types of bodies can occupy space and move freely in the Rainbow Nation. Bodies that are white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied, with access to various social, economic and political spaces are more likely to thrive in post-apartheid Apartheid South Africa.

To be a young, black, queer and non-binary transgender person in this country means to be faced with several challenges on a daily basis. It isn't any easier if you're disabled, a woman, impoverished, have a mental illness or possess any other marker of social difference that could exclude you from living a full life. Occasionally, and not often enough, people who have been marginalized from society are able to break through some of the barriers that they are presented with. Too often though, we hail these people for their resilience, strength and brilliance without once considering the world in which they live and manage to thrive in.

To be phenomenal as a person who is not a white, able-bodied, cisgender, heterosexual, financially and socially mobile white man comes at the risk of being exceptionalised. In a world where success has been reserved for a select few of our population, anybody else that makes it despite these odds is then presented as the poster child, and proof that they too can make it in this unjust world. Very little is then said about how to remove these barriers to entry, and transform society into a place in which we can all be equal.

Equality can come in the form of equal access to education, to housing, to healthcare, or even being represented in mainstream media and creative spaces dominated by white bodies. To be a black, queer and transgender artist or creative in post-apartheid Apartheid South Africa is to constantly have your work viewed from a cisnormative white gaze, to constantly reimagine the ways in which black, queer and transgender bodies can be documented in ways that are not violent, and to take part in a collective healing and transformation of communities.

This healing, which happens when black, queer and transgender bodies are able to view their identities in nuanced and layered representations, is a political tool in decolonizing a country in which these identities are an accessory and afterthought. To be a black, queer, and transgender artist is have the burden of centuries of physical, psychological and symbolic violence on your shoulders, and yet continue to create as a strategy of catharsis, and an attempt at rebuilding humanity.

Social media has allowed for these calls for dismantling and healing to be heard throughout the country, and globally. This tool enables conversations to be had in multiple time zones, languages and geographical locations. As a black, queer and transgender body who insists on creating and imagining nuanced depictions of black lives, the internet has been essential in exposing me to several communities, and sharing strategic forms of creative protest and survival.

My blackness, queerness and trans experience are often the reason behind my exclusion and experience of violence at the expense of a 'non-racial, non-sexist' society. These parts of my identity are however important in being able to change the way those around me think about their positionality in this world. The parts of my identity that are constraints at participating in a full life are, taking from Eddie Ndopu's words, an offering to humanity to rethink what it means to be human.

The #OxfordEddiecated campaign is less a story about an individual phenomenal person, but how access can change the world. This opportunity will allow Eddie, regardless of his blackness, queerness and disability, to have a positive and significant impact on the lives of many other disabled people. This story is one in which we all have a stake in, and can all make a difference through.

Keep up with #OxfordEddiecated on Facebook and Indiegogo.

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Craig Mercer/MB Medi for Getty Images

The Springboks Winning the Rugby World Cup is not a Cure for South Africa's Social Problems

The hype around South Africa's recent Rugby World Cup win feeds into the myth of the rainbow nation.

South Africans all over the country erupted in glorious celebration as the last whistle blew signalling their victory in the Rugby World Cup final against England. It was a moment that the country, as a democracy, has only ever experienced twice before. As Siya Kolisi, the Springbok's first Black captain hoisted up the trophy, it was evident that South Africans from all walks of life were genuinely united together. President Cyril Ramaphosa stood beaming with pride and waved enthusiastically at his national team in the same way that Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki had at previous World Cup tournaments.

But while the victory was truly inspiring, South Africans have now largely returned to their respective realities, one comfortable and affluent and one precarious and poor. The tremendous show of cultural unity created by the win is now being used as a front to mask the deep divides which continue to widen between Black and White, rich and poor. The fleeting unity often fostered as a result of major sporting events, is being made out to be a fully-fledged resolution to these divides. It is not.

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Meet the Queer South African Feminist & Disability Rights Activist Taking Oxford By Storm

25-year-old South African Eddie Ndopu has become the first African with a disability accepted to the University of Oxford.

A 25-year-old black, queer feminist thinker in Johannesburg is making history in a big way. That young South African is Eddie Ndopu, a disability rights activist who recently became the first African with a disability admitted to the University of Oxford.

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Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

In Conversation with Congolese NBA Player Emmanuel Mudiay: 'I want more African players in the NBA.'

The Utah Jazz player talks about being African in the NBA, supporting basketball in the DRC and how 'everybody knows about Burna Boy'.

Inspired by his basketball-playing older brothers, by second grade, Emmanuel Mudiay already knew that he wanted to play in the American National Basketball Association. Then in 2001 his family, fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo, sought asylum in the United States.

In America, Mudiay saw basketball as a way for him to improve his situation. After impressive high school and college careers, he moved to China to play pro ball. Picked 7th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, the now 23-year-old guard has made a name for himself this season coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz.

Mudiay attests to the sport having changed not only his life but that of his siblings. Basketball gave them all a chance at a good education and the opportunity to dream without conditions. Now he wants to see other talented African players make it too.

We caught up with him to talk about his experience as an African player in the NBA, his hopes for basketball on the African continent and who he and his teammates jam out to in their locker rooms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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University lecturer and activist Doctor Stella Nyanzi (L) reacts in court as she attends a trial to face charges for cyber-harassment and offensives communication, in Kampala, on April 10, 2017. (Photo by GAEL GRILHOT/AFP via Getty Images)

Jailed Ugandan Activist, Stella Nyanzi, Wins PEN Prize for Freedom of Expression

The outspoken activist, who is currently serving a prison sentence for a poem she wrote about the president's mother's vagina, won for her resistance "in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her."

Stella Nyanzi, the Ugandan academic, activist, and vocal critic of President Yoweri Museveni has been awarded the 2020 Oxfam Novib/PEN International award for freedom of expression, given to writers who "continue to work for freedom of expression in the face of persecution."

Nyanzi is currently serving a 15 month sentence for "cyber harassment" after she published a poem in which she wrote that she wished "the acidic pus flooding Esiteri's (the president's mother) vaginal canal had burn up your unborn fetus. Burn you up as badly as you have corroded all morality and professionalism out of our public institutions in Uganda."

According to the director of PEN International, Carles Torner, her unfiltered outspokenness around the issues facing her country is what earned her the award. "For her, writing is a permanent form of resistance in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her," said Torner at the award ceremony.

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