My name is Neo Baepi. I’m a 20-something black queer womxn photographer living and working and fighting in Cape Town. The title of this write up is made up of words you can find in my social media biographies. These words echo mostly what I have to do. I have to do things deliberately and insistently if any of it is going to be worth it. If I’m going to photograph something I have to be very clear about the reasons I’m photographing. I unfortunately don’t have the privilege that my male counterparts do to just make content. I have to be methodical and there has to be a point.
In the same way my work has a kind of deliberateness about it, my existence is the same. Let’s face it, black South African womxn queers have numbered days. We have literal bounty on our backs. We exist mostly as sites of death and rape and pain. We have been documented as people who are constantly in danger. It is because of this I try my best to exist beyond what society says is OK for me. This is a double-edged sword because the more exposed I am, the more danger I put myself in. And at the same time, invisibility amongst queers can breed complacency.
My work forms a balance between the two. I am a trained photographer, so I use my skills and resources to create a different narrative around queerness (and womxnhood and blackness). Instead of documenting queer pain, I deliberately make queer self-portraits with joy at the centre. Yes, we are in very real danger of a society that says we should exist carefully (or else…), but we are also a diverse people who live and love and work and dance and drink and fuck just like everybody else. My work is almost a call-to-action to other queers (who have resources and language and privilege) like me to till the soil for those who are younger and more impressionable than us.
If we constantly accept that we are in danger, that makes for a life not-so-well lived. We have to be undeterred and deliberate in ourselves, beyond the queerness.