THE BLOG

Out The Box: A Glimpse Into 20 Years Of Queer Archiving

GALA act as a catalyst for the production, preservation and dissemination of knowledge on the history and contemporary experiences of LGBTIQ people.

20/11/2017 09:24 SAST
QA2 Kenya/ Keval Harie
GALA's book stall at a conference in Kenya called "Changing Faces, Changing Spaces".

In 2017 GALA celebrates its 20th anniversary. The "Out the Box" exhibition showcases some of the treasures, stories and personalities found in GALA's archival collections. With almost 200 collections and growing, what is on display is only a small sample of what can be found in GALA's many boxes.

GALA QA2/ Phumzi Manana

What is GALA?

GALA is a centre for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning/queer (LGBTIQ) culture and education in southern Africa. Our mission is to act as a catalyst for the production, preservation and dissemination of knowledge on the history, culture and contemporary experiences of LGBTIQ people.

The impulse behind our establishment in 1997 is reflected in our original name, "The Gay and Lesbian Archives". We were set up to address the disregard and erasure of the stories and experiences of LGBTIQ people from official archives, histories and other spaces in South Africa.

In the years since then, the scope of our work has expanded significantly to include a range of activities that aim to create dialogue on sexuality and gender identity, educate the public, build community among LGBTIQ people, and inspire action. In 2007 we changed our name to Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (while retaining the acronym GALA) to better reflect this development. However, the archival programme remains the heart of GALA.

Like the untouchable wind/ Keval Harie

The Archives

GALA's archive and research facility were set up to facilitate rigorous academic research on LGBTIQ issues in southern Africa, while also acting as a repository of community histories and cultural artefacts.

Today, GALA is the custodian of over 180 collections, going back to the 1940s, that document the history, culture and contemporary experiences of LGBTIQ people from southern Africa.

The collections range in size from one file to over 150 archive boxes, and consist largely of organisational material from LGBTIQ organisations and campaigns, as well as personal collections which include letters, diaries, photographs and memorabilia.

Through the recording of oral histories, GALA has actively sought to flesh out our white-dominated, male-dominated recorded history with the roles and stories of black, female and trans activists...

We also have a large amount of material relating to cultural activities and marches, covering events and organisations such as the Out in Africa Film Festival, various Pride marches, theatre performances, exhibitions and literature.

GALA holds a substantial press collection, and historical newspaper clippings can be found across most archive collections.

Through the recording of oral histories, GALA has actively sought to flesh out our white-dominated, male-dominated recorded history with the roles and stories of black, female and trans activists, as well as the everyday lives and experiences of queer black South Africans.

The majority of GALA's collections are paper-based, but we also hold audiovisual material, t-shirts, photographs, flyers, posters, placards and other ephemera. Researchers can make an appointment to view our collections in the GALA reading room. The Archival Guide can be accessed on the GALA website, and is a good starting point for researchers wishing to access GALA's collections.

Linda Chernis -- GALA Archivist and "Out the Box" exhibition Curator.