Elska Magazine, the bi-monthly gay photography and culture publication, has travelled to Cape Town, South Africa to make its latest edition. Inside the Elska team introduces readers to fifteen local men who were photographed in their homes and throughout their city in a natural, unairbrushed style. Then each photospread is accompanied by a personal story written by each of the men to let you get to them at a most intimate level.
Each of Elska’s editions is made in a different city, and this is the first to be made in Africa. It’s a great first choice city for that great continent, as Cape Town serves as a beacon of safety and freedom for LGBTQ people throughout the region. Indeed although most of the men featured were born and bred in Cape Town, some of the men settled later, as adults, seeking a place where they could flourish, originating from places like Congo, Kenya, and Namibia, And beyond this multinational diversity, Cape Town is a very multiethnic place, blending around 50% mixed-race (‘coloured’ in local parlance), 30% black, and 20% white; this unique demography is reflected on the pages of Elska Cape Town.
“In the beginning I worried that I wouldn’t like South Africa, that everything would be tainted with racism”, says editor and chief photographer Liam Campbell, “but after fifteen 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. While you can easily see inequity in the society, you can also sense that people care for each other and want South Africa to be a better place for everyone. More than any place Elska has visited, it’s here that I saw how much we are all different and all the same.”
The stories written by each of the men give some perspective into particularly South African issues. For example, there’s Fahad H’s story about the challenges of being in a mixed-race coupling; there’s Kai B’s piece lamenting the lack of queer spaces for black men in particular; and there’s Ashley S’s discussion of growing up feeling that his skin was too dark, his lips too full, and bum too shapely. Other stories here move beyond issues of race, like JP de C’s tale of finding true love at a gay sauna; Jannie B’s piece on discovering that he’s into much older men; and Terrence D’s confessional on being able to finally recognise sexual assault and not downplay it.
Elska Cape Town is 164 pages and is available in a classic collectible print version or in a download version. A companion e-zine called Elska Ekstra Cape Town is also available containing outtakes, behind the scenes tales, plus images and stories from a few more men not featured in the main mag. A list of stockists and details of how to order online can be found on the Elska website: www.elskamagazine.com.