Yaya Mavundla gets set to take on the world
Transgender activist to exhibit her works overseas
Transgender activist and media personality Yaya Mavundla is taking her Black, Trans and Bold solo exhibition that first launched on Women’s Day at Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, around the world.
Mavundla’s jet-setting series of exhibitions will kick off at Investec Cape Town Art Fair in February before extending to the US, UK and Germany in June and July.
“I’m super excited because the dresses I’ve been wearing, including the dress I wore at The Feathers [last Thursday] will form part of the art exhibition I debuted at the historical Women’s Jail at Constitution Hill,” Mavundla said.
When I catch up with the 35-year-old, it’s a few days after she won Best Styled Individual at Feather Awards XV, a joint win with former SMag cover star Ponahalo Mojapelo. During our telephone conversation, I also learn that Mavundla has just made a trip to Jeppe police station, where she followed up on the latest developments of a case where a victim was lured by kidnappers using Grindr, the free-to-use gay dating app.
To raise awareness about similar cases of hate crime, Mavundla sewed her activism into the seams of gown she wore at the Feather Awards. The lemonade-pink Queer Couture gown featured media headlines and blurbs of Grindr-related hate crimes.
“I felt it was important to me to use my voice on a platform like the Feathers, where it has been mainly queer people who have fallen victim. The Feathers are a queer event so I thought it was the perfect platform to get momentum around the media and the government. I am very thankful to the media for exposing these acts,” she said.
“The creation process behind the dress first began with researching the stories. I had to read up on what was written, then we took the stories [news clippings] and made them into a print. I told the printer how I wanted the print to sit on the dress and then we strategically cut the fabric.”
When she picked up her award on stage at The Market Theatre she used her speech to highlight her activism work while also using the spotlight to thank her friends, allies and renowned SA couturier Gavin Rajah.
“I thanked Gavin Rajah for the role he played in my style. I thanked him for advice and the consistent assistance he had given me. He is one designer who I can turn to should I need something to wear. When I lived in Durban, I was cast for my first fashion show, Fashion by the Sea, I remember admiring him from afar. Today, I’m working with him and it’s something special.
“Anything that I said on stage I never prepared it, I swear. I didn’t think I was going to win, but I also wanted to win so bad. However, if I didn’t win, I would be consoled with the fact that at least my gown would have made the statement that I wanted to make.
“Even though I was excited that I won, I quickly remembered that I’m privileged to be there because I’ve put in the work and proved myself to people that I rightfully belong there.”
Mavundla is grateful and humbled that the work she does serves as a continuous inspiration for minority groups that remain unrecognised and unseen.
“I’m glad that people can see where I come from and my resilience. Most of the work I do are opportunities I created by myself because I know that the world isn't for me, and many times trans women are overlooked.
“Receiving the award inspires other trans people in that they too can strive for great accomplishments if they put in the work. I will not be erased, instead I’m going to make sure that I continue to do things that are going to propel me into success.”
Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.