More about Gabrielle Le Roux

Gabrielle Le Roux is a South African self- and community-taught artist, film-maker, and queer feminist activist who, since 2001, has been collaboratively creating projects that combine portraits and stories as an intervention for social justice.

Gabrielle Le Roux is a queer artist and activist for social justice, born in London and raised in Apartheid South Africa. Gabrielle 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, Gabrielle worked with a number of organisations challenging racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. This hands-on activist’s education culminated in the formation of the Women’s Media Watch, an NGO Gabrielle ran for five years. The organisation brought together a wide spectrum of women to challenge the way they, from their different positions and experiences, were represented in the media.

Art Activism

In 2001, recovering from NGO burn-out, Gabrielle 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 Gabrielle began inviting people to write directly onto their portraits whatever they wished to say about themselves. The longer stories are in the form of 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. This multi-vocal, inter-disciplinary work continues to be created and mobilised across multiple geographies, particularly in the Global South.

The artwork 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. Gabrielle’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.

Gabrielle’s artistic engagement in trans and intersex activism came about as a result of close friendships formed during Gabrielle’s mentorships, NGO years, and then with their art activism, since 2007 much of Gabrielle’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 offline as creative interventions to highlight gender diversity. As a genderqueer member of the community, much of Gabrielle’s work aims to unsettle the gender binary.

Film Activism

Gabrielle is also an award-winning film-maker, having made several films in collaboration with trans and intersex activists and community members.

Reclaiming IntersexWhile Black, Genderqueer + Feminist in South Africa, a 28-minute film, made with South African intersex activist, Nthabiseng Mokoena, won an Audience Award at the TranScreen Film Festival in Amsterdam in 2019. Nthabiseng Mokoena powerfully shares their story of growing up intersex in a rural area in North West province of South Africa. With sharp intersectional analysis and humour, Mokoena speaks to the history and present of the intersex struggle in South Africa, on 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. 

Proudly Trans in Turkey / Trans Onurlu ve Turkiyeli is a 5.5-hour, 18-part video installation available on YouTube. It was made in collaboration with 18 trans activists in Turkey. 

Digitalove is a 5-minute erotic, experimental short film made in collaboration with Kali van der Merwe. 

Who’s News?, a 25-minute film, was made in South Africa in 1999 with members of the feminist pressure group, Women’s Media Watch. It looks at the representation and lack of representation of women in the media.