More about Gabrielle Le Roux
Gabrielle Le Roux is a South African self and community-taught artist, film-maker and queer feminist activist who has been collaboratively creating projects that combine portraits and stories as an intervention for social justice since 2001.
Gabrielle Le Roux is a queer artist and activist for social justice, born in London and raised in apartheid South Africa. Le Roux left South Africa in the early 1980s and lived in the Canary Islands, then the Windward Islands of the Caribbean, and later in Europe, returning to South Africa in the early 1990s. Mentored by black feminists Le Roux worked with a number of organisations challenging racism, sexism, classism and homophobia. This hands-on activist education culminated in the formation of the Women’s Media Watch, an NGO Le Roux ran for five years. The organization brought together a wide spectrum of women to challenge the way they were, and were not represented in the media from their different positions.
In 2001, recovering from NGO burn-out, Le Roux began to try a new kind of engagement, combining portraits drawn from life and first-person stories as a way of documenting social issues while paying tribute to people whose lives were committed to social change. This work became progressively more collaborative and from 2006 Le Roux began inviting people to write directly onto their portraits whatever they wished to say about themselves. The longer stories may be in text, voice or video. The work is rooted in the conviction that we change each other’s lives with our stories and that people who speak firsthand about an issue are the ones who should be listened to most closely.
Initially as a result of close friendships, since 2007 much of Le Roux’s work has been in collaboration with trans and intersex activists, mostly in the global south, in Southern and East Africa, Mexico and also Turkey. The Proudly African & Transgender portraits and stories, and the Proudly Trans in Turkey videos are claimed by the movements that birthed them and continue to be used widely on and offiline as creative interventions to unsettle the gender binary.
Le Roux is also an award-winning film-maker, Reclaiming Intersex, made with intersex activist Nthabiseng Mokoena won an Audience Award at TranScreen Film Festival in Amsterdam 2019.
Le Roux draws portraits from life and, since 2006, has invited each person to write what they want to say about themselves directly onto the drawing.
The stories that accompany the portrait drawings may be in the form of text, voice or video. It is a practice rooted in the transformative power of friendships and shared values, and emerges from, and circulates freely within movements, rather than in the art world. The exhibitions travel widely on and offline, and are part of the curriculum in universities in many parts of the world. As a genderqueer member of the community, much of Le Roux’s work to unsettle the gender binary is led by trans and intersex activists from East and Southern Africa and also Turkey and Mexico. Examples of the projects include Proudly African & Transgender, Proudly Trans in Turkey and the film Reclaiming Intersex.
This multi-vocal, inter-disciplinary work continues to be created and mobilized across multiple geographies particularly in the global south.
Le Roux’s work has been shown in Dominica, South Africa, Uganda, Botswana, UK, France, Holland, Spain, Germany, Turkey, Greece, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Copenhagen, Mexico, Canada, US, Brazil and Nepal.
Reclaiming Intersex – while black, genderqueer + feminist in South Africa won a TranScreen Festival 2019 Audience Award. Nthabiseng Mokoena powerfully shares their story of growing up intersex in rural North West. With sharp intersectional analysis and humour, Mokoena speaks to the history and present of the intersex struggle in South Africa, why it is a race and class issue, and how intersex genital mutilation ought to be outlawed in the same way as female genital mutilation. Duration: 28min
Proudly Trans in Turkey, Trans Onurlu ve Turkiyeli is an 18 part video installation available on YouTube made in collaboration with 18 trans activists in Turkey. Total Duration: 5.5hrs (the 18 part series vary in length per video).
Digitalove an erotic, experimental short film in collaboration with Kali van der Merwe. Duration: 5min
Who’s News? Made in South Africa in 1999 with members of the feminist pressure group Women’s Media Watch, looks at the representation and lack of representation of women in the media. Duration: 25min