Most people know South Africa as a post-colonial hodgepodge that renounced its system of racist apartheid in 1994 or as the place that jailed and subsequently elected civil rights leader Nelson Mandela as its president. But fewer people know Cape Town, South Africa, as a beacon of gay life for men living across Africa. Elska magazine (link NSFW) recently visited there and shared some images and stories from the 15 local queer men they met there exclusively with Hornet. Collectively, Elska Cape Town reveals stunning men living in a vibrant country still healing from its segregated past.
Elska — the bimonthly male photography, culture and travel magazine that bills itself as “part intellectual queer pin-up mag and part sexy anthropology journal” — chooses a new international location every two months, with images and stories from queer men living there. In the past they’ve covered Yokohama, Japan; Haifa, Israel; Mumbai, India; Taipei, Taiwan; and Bogotá, Colombia, among others.
Liam Campbell, Elska‘s editor and chief photographer, said this is the first time his publication has visited Africa.
“In the beginning I worried that I wouldn’t like South Africa, that everything would be tainted with racism,” he said, “but after 15 Elska editions, I knew it was time we finally went to Africa. The reality proved that things are not perfect, reiterating that it really wasn’t that long ago that apartheid ended. However there is a strong mood of hope and an effort to make a society that is fair and righteous.”
Here are pictures of some of the queer men featured in Elska Cape Town:
Campbell acknowledged that one can “easily see inequity” in Cape Town. One black model claimed to regularly get dirty looks and nasty under-the-breath comments from security guards and customers in the predominantly white gayborhood of Green Point. But Campbell adds that South Africa is also more multiethnic than people might think, claiming a 50% mixed-race population alongside a 30% black and 20% white citizenry.
He also says that Cape Town is the gayest and safest city for LGBTQ Africans, with widespread LGBTQ rights, same-sex marriage and a society that’s much more open than one would expect, all of which compel queer Africans from across the country to move there.
Campbell also sees Elska’s latest issue as a way to challenge common media depictions of black men as exotic, disadvantaged urbanites.
“I think it’s important to show real black men as they are, destructing the rampant stereotypes that are put upon them, especially in gay media,” Campbell tells Hornet. “So doing an issue of Elska in Africa where black and colored men are the majority means they’re absolutely not exotic, just normal.”