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Background & Origins


The impulse behind our creation in 1997 is reflected in our original name ‘The Gay and Lesbian Archives’. We were set up to address the erasure of the representation of the stories and experiences of LGBTI people from official archives, histories and other spaces in Africa. In the years since then, the scope of our work has expanded significantly to include a range of activities that aim to create dialogue on same-sex sexuality and gender identity, educate the public, build community among LGBTI people, and to inspire action. In 2007 we changed our name to Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (while retaining the acronym GALA) to better reflect this development.

Extended roles for GALA

Over the years we have succeeded in establishing ourselves as an important destination for people interested in the study, promotion and preservation of the history, culture and contemporary experiences of LGBTI people in Africa. The core of our organisation remains an archives and research facility that is unique on the continent, and which represents an extensive, well-utilized resource for researchers, students, development professionals, journalists, filmmakers, policy and public-opinion makers, and other interested persons from around the world.

Our collections encompass organisational and individual records and narratives, community histories and cultural artefacts. GALA also undertakes original research projects that provide a strong evidence-base for advocacy and programmatic activities.

A range of activities

Around this core revolve a range of activities. These have included the mainstreaming of relevant exhibitions into museums; the promotion of seminars, workshops, public dialogues and conferences; the production of relevant publications; the development of platforms to promote the work of queer African writers and artists; documentary films; campaigns and advocacy; and other outreach initiatives.

Building movements

In recent years, GALA has also strengthened our commitment to movement building within South Africa. For example, we work with LGBTI youth to mobilise them to take action in relation to the discrimination that they face. The innovative Deaf Programme that we run also provides a clear demonstration of GALA’s human rights agenda, and the ways in which we connect LGBTI issues with broader struggles for justice in South Africa.

A human rights framework

GALA uses a human rights framework to work towards building a society which is democratic, just and peaceful. As such we strive to be progressive, transformative, democratic, inclusive, respectful of diversity, non-racist, non-sexist, non-xenophobic, empowering, and to provide equal opportunities. We believe in the transformation of oppressive gender relations in order to achieve true gender equality.