South African artist Zanele Muhole uses her own menstrual blood to address the queerphobia and violence she has experienced with being a South African lesbian, Zanele Muholi.
Through her use of menstrual blood in her show Isilumo siyaluma (Period Pains, 2006-2011) in Cape Town, Muholi sought to tell the story of black lesbians in South Africa and represent “curative rape.” She wrote of the project in a press release for the exhibit:
Isilumo siyaluma is a Zulu expression that can be loosely translated as “period pains/ periods pain”. Additionally, there is an added meaning in the translation that there is something secretive in and about this blood/“period in time.”
At one level, my project deals with my own menstrual blood, with that secretive, feminine time of the month that has been reduced within Western patriarchal culture as dirty.
On a deeper level then, my menstrual blood is used as a vehicle and medium to begin to express and bridge the pain and loss I feel as I hear and become witness to the pain of ‘curative rapes’ that many of the girls and women in my black lesbian community bleed from their vaginas and their minds.
Between March – May 2011, three (3) young black lesbians under the age of 25 were brutally murdered in various townships [….] As we continue to live and survive in troubled times as black lesbians in South Africa and within the continent, where rampant hate crimes and brutal killings of same gender loving women is rife, this ongoing project is an activist/artist’s radical response to that violence.
Watch an interview with Muholi where she discusses this work.