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Corinna Kern October 21, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in South Africa.
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Tulie and Anezwa. Magenigeni Village, Tshabo, South Africa 2014

Corinna Kern (b.1986, Germany) completed her Master in Photojournalism at the University of Westminster in London in 2013 and was selected for the Getty Images Reportage Emerging Talent Award in 2014. She was nominated as a finalist for the Alexia Foundation Professional Grant 2015 and was featured on POYI and the NPPA Best of Photojournalism. Corinna has exhibited at Krakow Photo Fringe, Backlight Photo Festival and New York Photo World. Her work has been published TIME, CNN, Vice, Magazine du Monde, Die Zeit, De Standaard, Daily Mail, and Esquire.

About the Photograph:

“This photo is part of my series ‘Mama Africa, a documentary on transgender women in South Africa’s townships and rural communities. Due to the strong social stigma that are attached to transgenderism in African culture, it is a topic in need of awareness in order to provoke social change. Traditional beliefs entrenched in African culture consider nonconforming gender and gender expression un-African, contradicting one of the most liberal constitutions in the world in terms of LGBT rights. Hate crimes and institutionalized homophobia are common phenomenon and often force individuals to conform their gender according to society’s standards.”

“Despite the harsh realities that transgender women face in South Africa, my project resulted in a colourful and celebratory series. It documents four individuals in their endeavors to integrate themselves into a hetero-patriarchal society while experiencing a surprisingly high level of acceptance. One of my main characters is Tulie, a 23-year old transgender woman who was awarded Miss Tran’s and regularly participates as a model in fashion shows. She is very popular amongst her wider community and was joking around with her friend at the time the photo was taken. I would have loved to understand more of what they were saying since most of it was in Xhosa. Nevertheless, I picked up that many of their conversations were evolving around men or relationships.”

“It was a very positive and relaxed atmosphere. I always felt very comfortable and safe walking around with Tulie, be it through the township where she lives or the rural areas of Tshabo where she grew up and where this photograph was taken. On that day, Tulie visited Tshabo to help her family with preparations for a traditional ceremony where the tombstones of recently deceased family members are unveiled. I was particularly intrigued by the contrast of Tulie, being a very fashionable, self-confident and outgoing character, in a rural and conservative environment, adding to the ambiguity and fluidity of gender while challenging the stereotypical notions of African gender identity.”