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Highlights of the GALA archive

Without queer history, there is no queer pride!

Welcome to our new series on the highlights of the GALA archive. Here we will be sharing some short articles based on our diverse collections. We will be adding more content over the next few months so please visit this page again soon. 

 

Queer Student Activism @ Wits - A glimpse into the archives

We take a look back at Wits student protests and the Wits Gay Movement from the 1980s. 

 

Archiving an Icon

In june 2016 GALA archivist Linda Chernis attended the 2016 LGBTQ Archives, Libraries, Museums and Special Collections (ALMS) conferenc in London, United Kingdom.  She presented a paper based on one of GALA’s collections, titled: Archiving an Icon: The Simon Nkoli Collection. The conference was an important event for networking and connecting with other queer archives from around the world, and learning from their experiences.

Michele Bruno

Celebrated Joburg hairdresser, drag performer and early gender non-conformer Michel(e)* Bruno died this week in Johannesburg at the age of 75.  Bruno was well-known in some of Joburg’s more flamboyant social circles of the 1960s and ‘70s – she also became the country’s first Miss Gay South Africa in 1969, but received more media attention for being one of those arrested in the now notorious Forest Town raid of 1966. Please click here for Mark Gevisser’s tribute to Bruno in the Mail & Guardian.


GALA's T-shirts

Take a look at some of the wonderful t-shirts in GALA’s collections, representing South African LGBTI campaigns and pride marches, early activist organisations as well as a large collection of t-shirts around HIV/AIDS activism. Photographs across numerous collections show many of these t-shirts being worn at marches, demonstrations and social events, showing what an important and visible part of the LGBTI movement they were.

GALA’s t-shirts were recently photographed to feature on the US-based public history website, WearingGayHistory.


The GLOW Collection

The collection of the Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand (GLOW) is one of GALA's first archival collections.   GLOW was established in 1988 by a group of black gay and lesbian activists, with Simon Tseko Nkoli elected as their first chair.  At the time GLOW was the only South African gay and lesbian organisation with a predominantly black membership.  GLOW gained public attention by ensuring a gay and lesbian presence in the 1989 wave of political activism and demonstrations campaigning for democracy and the unbanning of the liberation movements. In 1990 GLOW was involved in organising South Africa's first Gay and Lesbian Pride March in Johannesburg. In their campaign for gay and lesbian rights, largely through the media, GLOW insisted that liberation from homophobia could not be separated from the broader struggle for liberation in South Africa.  GLOW was involved in the formation of the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality (NCGLE) and participated in the campaign to ensure sexual and gender rights were entrenched in South Africa’s new constitution. 


The prison letters of Simon Nkoli

Simon Nkoli (1957–1998) was one of South Africa's most influential and well-loved LGBTI activists. In September 1984, he was detained as one of the 'Vaal 22', the group at the centre of the Delmas treason trial. For the four years he was in prison, Nkoli wrote letter after letter to his friends, comrades and international supporters. But it is his letters to Roy Shepherd, his lover at the time of his arrest, that are at the core of the GALA collection. They show how he grappled with being on trial and the challenges of living in prison, and, in particular, with being gay in these circumstances. The extracts collected here reveal much more than Nkoli's political positions: they offer insights into his personal needs and tastes, and in doing so offer another perspective on a man revered for his great contribution to human rights in South Africa.


MaThoko's post box

Thokozile Khumalo (1947–1993), known affectionately as MaThoko, was a seemingly ordinary woman with a remarkable capacity to love. For over a decade she opened her home and her heart to countless young people, particularly those who had been disowned by their families and forced out of school. MaThoko's address became synonymous with the KwaThema branch of the Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand. Members of GLOW would gather at her shebeen to debate, strategise and party. But for many who knew MaThoko, her house is remembered first and foremost as a place of refuge. Her memory and spirit were honoured in 2011 with the launch of MaThoko's Books, GALA’s publishing imprint, the logo of which is her post box – the only remaining feature of her KwaThema home.


The Gerald Kraak Collection – Parts I, II & lll

Gerald Kraak (1956-2014) was a philanthropist, activist, writer and humanitarian, who is perhaps best known for his tireless efforts to build a strong and vibrant LGBTI rights movement. Through Kraak's support, particularly after he joined Atlantic Philanthropies in the early 2000s, new LGBTI organisations were able to emerge and existing groups were able to re-evaluate their approach. Indeed, there are very few South African LGBTI organisations that have not benefited directly from his dream of a better world. Upon his death in 2014 Kraak bequeathed a substantial personal collection to GALA, reinforcing his lifelong commitment to preserving history. The collection includes documents and ephemera relating to world events, LGBTI rights, 1970s student activism and the anti-apartheid movement in exile, as well material relating to Kraak's personal life and interests, including theatre, literature, film and the arts.


The Bill Curry Collection

Bill Curry (1931–2015) was a much-loved actor whose career included opera, children's theatre, drama, comedy, directing, feature films and television. Donated to GALA by Curry in 1999, the collection includes letters, programmes, press clippings, posters, photographs and more. It provides fascinating insights not only into Curry's personal life, but also into the many changes that took place in the performing arts industry during his lifetime.