The Memorial Ball 2020, a body of work that celebrates the life of slain LGBTQI+ activist Kirvan Fortuin, is the latest work to enter the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Works of Art Collection (WOAC).
Produced by up-and-coming photographic artist Haneem Christian, the three photographic prints honour the life, times and work of Fortuin – an award-winning dancer and choreographer, a loved and respected figure in the local ballroom dancing fraternity and a queer rights activist. Fortuin, who also founded the House of le Cap – a space created to celebrate and support members of the LGBTQI+ community in Cape Town, was murdered in Macassar in June 2020.
Striking and solemn portraits
Christian’s striking portraits showcase a few “children” of the House of le Cap – some of Fortuin’s close associates. As the centrepiece of the series, the House of le Cap provides an alternative view of the usual family memorial. The work’s celebratory mode of representation aims to directly contrast the traditional western conventions around bereavement and loss. It showcases the children of the House of le Cap in bright white dresses, rose-coloured pants, high heels, glittering eyeshadow, and lavish church hats. In one image, the central figure holds a photograph of Fortuin, and the frame is adorned with a white satin sash with an inscription: “Mother of the year”, and three tiaras rest atop the picture.
“The Memorial Ball (2020) shares in the painful loss of a mother figure, as family members celebrate the memory of her grace in order to reconcile her loss.”
“The Memorial Ball (2020) shares in the painful loss of a mother figure, as family members celebrate the memory of her grace in order to reconcile her loss, finding sanctum and joy through queered familial bonds,” reads a citation on the work by Jared Leite.
As a gender studies student, Christian uses her platform as a visual artist to create a constructive space for self-representation, celebration and queer belonging. Her focus in Memorial Ball 2020 is on the specific expression of Trans identities, and her work is “most impactful” in that regard.
“The body of work responds to an unprecedented act of violence by continuing in their refusal to conform, by continuing to redefine the nature of queer orientations by forging new familial bonds. Christian’s photography honours the significance of Kirvan Fortuin’s work within the LGBTQI+ community and projects the complex beauty of the Trans identities,” the citation continued.
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