Photographer Sabelo Mlangeni’s Black Men in Dress series portrays the South African gay scene, depicting a community that is often forced to hide from the public eye.
The photographs were taken during the Johannesburg and Soweto Pride, where the community celebrates its sexual identity and demonstrates for its rights. In Black Men in Dress, Mlangeni’s investigates the reasons why homosexuality is still so widely stigmatized in South African society. In a similar effort to photographer Zanele Muholi’s, Mlangeni strives to portray homosexuality as a reality. The ease with which all subjects pose for the photographer helps contradict the prevalent local notion that homosexuality is un-African and a western import. Simultaneously, and knowing African homosexuals are still an uncommon sight even for many Europeans, Mlangeni seeks to make western viewers think on how they would react to the sight of an African man draped in women’s clothing. In this way, Mlangeni not only confronts his own society with one of its underrepresented facets, but also aims to update western societies’ image of Africa.