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Rhodes University (UCKAR), Makhanda (Grahastown), Eastern Cape

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Fashion and representation: a world without boundaries

Updated: Mar 2

Tasked with representing their own UCKAR LGBTQIA++ community, two writers for Activate Online, namely Paloma-Lucia Giustizieri and Aaron Adriaan, engaged with some of campus’ most creative, talented and dynamic students and appealed to them to describe their personal styles, and how their styles may or may not be influenced by their respective gender-identity or sexuality.

It is near impossible to deny the style UCKAR students exude on campus daily, but the most prominent contributors almost always happen to be members of the LGBTQIA++ community; unapologetic, radiating confidence and personality not only through what they wear, but who they are as people and proud representatives of their community.


Dumela Mmatumisang

By Paloma-Lucia Giustizieri


Mmatumisang Motsisi, an embodiment of ambition and success; director and designer of the feminist infused Seeing Red.

She is a friendly face that you might come across in the Drama Department. Identifying as fluid, she is a Tswana theatre practitioner currently doing her Masters at UCKAR.


Sitting crossed-legged, she explained her take on the commonly used term pansexual. “I love who I love, when I love them”. When asked about how she ‘came out’, she explained that from a young age she knew that she was attracted to both men and women.


The notion of ‘coming out’ can place an overwhelming amount of pressure on someone. Mmatumisang explained that she doesn’t necessarily believe in the act itself, but in the same breath you cannot hide from who you truly are. “Everyone who needs to know [about her sexuality], knows”.

The pronouns of she/her shape Mmatumisang’s identity. Not only does she identify as fluid in her sexuality, in terms of fashion she represents herself in a fluid manner, “I dress the way I want to dress.” Sometimes presenting as what society’s perception of what femininity is, and other times wearing what makes her feel most comfortable.


Diversity is something that encapsulates Mmatumisang. Originally from Rustenberg, raised in Pretoria and currently residing between Johannesburg and Makhanda, she speaks Setswana, English and Afrikaans.

Fast forward 10 years, if you see the name Mmatumisang Motsisi in one of your drama textbooks or trending in the theatre realm, do not be surprised. She has created and been a creative member of multiple plays such as: Seeing Red and Cult Clit, an aspiring drama teacher, theatre maker and influencer of South African theatre.

Mmatumisang explains how throughout her years at UCKAR, she has formed bonds with like-minded people and created a nurturing, positive support system for herself. And as important as having a support system is, she emphasizes how important it is to also be a support system for someone else.

Seeking some advice? Here are some things Mmatumisang would like to say to her younger self: “You don’t have to fit in in order to feel wanted by yourself. It’s all about getting up and living another day”

Her radiance doesn’t always show in the dark hues of her clothing choice, but rather in the luminescent tone of her laughter. She is a creative, fluid, melanin-dripping body who brings energy into any space she occupies.


Photographer: Paloma-Lucia Giustizieri

Phumelele Nkomazake

By Aaron Adriaan


Aaron: What is your queer identity?

Phumelele: I am gender nonconforming, gender non-binary currently but I identify as a transgender woman.


A: Do you think your style is an expression of yourself?

P: Definitely. I find myself invisible if I do not present [myself] in a particular way and that's more in particular just being transgender. There are a lot of performances that you need to put on and that is obviously because of you overcompensating all the time. But, yes, definitely. My fashion - I don't know what I would do without makeup, clothes, and hair.


A: Does your queer identity contribute to the ways you do or do not express yourself?

P: To the ways in which I do and do not express myself, I'm not sure I think my queerness does play a huge role in how I present and how I express myself. I find myself always trying to express conservative femininity and that is because of constantly overcompensating as I mentioned previously. It is because I am transgender that I put in more work into really being too feminine at times. That’s something I’m very cognizant of now. Because of my queerness, I do tend to express myself more boldly and vividly.


A: Is there ever a time you don’t think you should dress the way you want to?

P: There's always a time, especially if I navigate a particular space. If I’m navigating a particular space that is very masculine, I will try not to present too femininely because of the tyranny of these spaces and the power dynamics that vary and change all the time. It does control and minimise or maximise my presentation and my performance.


A: Tell me a little about your outfit today.

P: You know, I didn't want to dress up. I was like, you know what, it’s raining, it’s just a normal day but I was like - it’s fine, I’ll be cold, I’ll be beautiful, I'll be happy and I'm going to show a lot of skin.


A: What is your favourite piece?

P: It's the top, I love this top. I love straight off the shoulder items. I love my collar bones, I like my shoulders – no, I hate my shoulders because they're so broad, but I love it when off the shoulder items embrace my shoulders and my collar bones. Also, I love this green.


Photographer: Aaron Adriaan

Phumelele Nkomazake

By Aaron Adriaan


Aaron: What is your queer identity?

Iviwe: I am a transwomxn.


A: Do you think your style is an expression of yourself?

I: Yes, it’s just an expression of who I am. I express how I’m feeling and how I want to be seen through my fashion. There are a few habitual rituals I kind of do with my fashion but I always try to break away from it and try something new. I'm always keen on learning. I’m always fascinated by bodies and how things sit on my body.


A: Does your queer identity contribute to the way you do or do not express yourself?

I: I feel like I’m constantly in a space where I have to prove my femininity. So, I use my clothing to affirm that.


A: Is there ever a time you don’t think you should dress the way you want to?

I: When I'm in very queer-violent spaces, that's where I sort of have to dim down myself, dim down my light, put safety as a priority because I don't want to have the attention on me.


A: Tell me a little about your outfit?

I: Basically, my outfit is inspired by my mood. I felt very goth-and-grunge today so I went for an all-black ensemble. With a black lace bralette, black jeans and a leather jacket.


A: What is your favourite piece?

I: The bralette because it's sexy; it just makes me feel sexy. I feel like I’m a supermodel.


Photographer: Aaron Adriaan

Knowing that fashion on campus is defined in a very big way by the LGBTQIA++ community, this article hopes to instill within every individual the desire to be expressive with how they dress, unafraid and unapologetic and wholly comfortable in their own skin. Moreover, the queer community at UCKAR is one which should never be overlooked with regards to their stylistic prowess.