Black Looks - Including an African LGBTIQ+ Archive

Africa - Creative Arts, Crea(c)tive Senses, Photography, Queer Politics, Sexual Rights & Citizenship, South Africa

Isilumo Siyaluma: An artist responds to rape

Isilumo siyaluma (2006-2011) by Zanele Muholi



It started as a thumb print





















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……Zanele


Abamangalelwa ebhokini yenkantolo – The defendants in the dock

Ummeli – The Judge


My first tampon aged 13 was covered in vaseline.  We [school friends] wanted to be grown up and couldn’t wait to bleed so we stuck them up our precious anyway.   At boarding school in England we called it “the curse” and “it happened” every two weeks to avoid swimming in the freezing damp.    After saving my life “the curse” came to an inglorious end destroyed by the poison of chemotherapy.  I have no regrets.  The violation started well before the days of the blood sending my small precious into a bloating sag of dark red and blue.   Tears blood and snot curled up like a foetus praying for rebirth.   That was the real beginning………Sokari


A mother’s cry


Intshantshambo” A seed was planted in the earth and so became a flower








Afterwards Women Spoke







  1. Damn Moholi ngyawthanda umsebanzi wakho.

  2. Sokari

    Translated as ” I love your work”

  3. Fungai Machirori

    This is fascinating! I am wondering if those fingerprints are of real menstrual blood….
    And Sokari, I wasn’t aware you had cancer. Hope it’s all gone now.