Imagine Eros, the Greek God of Love, son to Aphrodite, being a queer boy who lived in Yeoville, downtown Johannesburg. Except, he’s not even Greek anymore. He’s an energy that runs through like the myriad of blood cells in our veins. In Greek mythology, Eros was known as the child of Chaos (the origin of everything), and he also blessed the union of Gaia and Uranus. Gaia is the mother of everything, she represents Earth. While Uranus is God that represents the Sky.
You see, Eros was quite a naughty little God. Satirical poets and artists in their later works depicted Eros as a blindfolded male, who carried his bow and arrow, targeting any human and making them fall in love with the first person they would see.
But, love in this context is not erotic, it is not anything sexual. It’s platonic. A pure relationship between two friends who share beautiful ideas, being comfortable in their own skin and being able to drink camomile tea in their pink dresses while looking over the cityscape of Jozi.
Although love seemed better in Ancient Greece, love doesn’t come easy in the City of Gold. Here, eJozi, as a black queer human being, when you’re trying to survive cisheterosexual triggers daily, you’re on your own. These triggers come in the form of taxi drivers, bystanders who can’t mind their own business, hoteps – the black men who refer to black women as ‘queens’ but have no understanding of patriarchy, violent cis-het women and Skrrt Skrrt boys. I’m pretty sure you can add to this list. We’re all fucked up in some shape or form.
Being young, black AND queer – the social pressure to excel in everything you do, is real. You have to work 10 times as hard to prove your worth, at work, school and with family. You overachieve. Your rebellion is the city that helps you escape the shade and curve balls life gives. There’s always hope. You find a companion or partner, or a friend who cav’s your vision.
The city, however, shows no mercy for you. It doesn’t care about you. Same with any area you might live in – ekasi, the rural, the lush suburbs. There’s no love. Folks seem to have a problem with love, and how two people can love each other. Whether it’s between a man and woman, and between the same genders. The romanticisation of ‘black love’ in a heterosexual context in our digital age leads to the queer erasure. We’ve seen it with the banning of Inxeba, a coming-of-age love story set on a mountain in rural South Africa. Would it have been better if the story was set in the city? What then? Can two queer men, who have a right to hold onto their own culture, not love each other?
I imagine Eros to be the kind of guy who actually doesn’t care who his arrows hit. You shouldn’t too.
Platonic romance… lovers in the sense of a shared bond related to passion, or life’s work, or secrets, or dreams and a common goal. Sometimes, the shared bond is a wound or a common enemy, and other times it’s a strange mutuality bordering on romantic attraction yet aimed at something beyond one another. According to Psychology Today, many close friendships begin with romantic feelings, although we don’t like to admit it. We’re confused by intense emotions that feel, sporadically, more than platonic and may or may not include physical attraction.
You can call it a bromance, or however you choose to call it but being platonic, free and queer, touches on the ever-changing parameters of black masculinity, as well as the exploration of black vulnerability. The world expects a lot of men to perform masculinity in a certain way.
When I watch groundbreaking movies such as Inxeba and Moonlight, I see it as a protest and social healing. With progressive storytelling, art, and music, I look at the likes of FAKA, Zanele Muholi, and Nakhane. I support intersectional narratives, but more those that aim to uplift the queer and trans community.
“In the constant fight for black liberation, it’s not uncommon for heterosexual, cisgender black people to not only sideline black queer voices but benefit from their time and effort while doing so.” – Lorenzo Simpson, Medium.
Eros in Downtown Johannesburg is an affirmation of black queerness that demands to be noticed. Whether it presents itself in a femme, masc or non-binary identity, these stories and progressive art forms will disrupt your worldview, bbz.
Art Direction & Photography by Thina Zibi.
Models: Lelo & Lebo