Mojapelo is a non-conventional surrealist and horror-fantasy film I am currently scripting. The project started in 2013 and I hope to complete the script end of this year. This is an introductory essay I wrote on the themes and issues (conflict) in Mojapelo’s social analysis. In August 2015, my cool friends and I shot visual inspiration behind the concept of Mojapelo which feature in this piece.
Homophobia is the hatred or fear of homosexuals – that is, lesbians and gay men – sometimes leading to acts of violence and expressions of hostility. Homophobia is not confined to any one segment of society, and can be found in people from all walks of life. Organized hate groups have viciously attacked homosexuals and have used especially violent language in attempting to persecute and intimidate them.
Anti-Defamation League 2013
Homophobia in the African context is ironic because pre-colonial homosexual relationships existed and were widely appreciated (Anderson, 2007, p. 124). Anderson furthermore states that the notion, ‘homosexuality is unAfrican’ should be abolished as Africans used to openly engage in same-sex relations (Anderson, 2007, p. 125).
The historical amnesia is regarded as a mental erasure of experiences through oppression forms like laws, brutality, and colonial rule as mentioned above. Anderson also proves that homosexuality has been widely neglected in African literature and how it contributes enormously to the denial of homosexuality, transvestism, transsexuality and intersexuality.
In this essay, I will discuss how the historical amnesia on homosexuality contributes to homophobia and its impact, why my film addresses homophobia and provides a solution through the filmic world.
Impact of homophobia (Themes)
Homosexuals experience rejection from friends and family, indirectly and directly which causes fear (Fritscher 2012):
The fear of rejection can be life-limiting, preventing us from reaching our full
potential or going after our dreams. A fear of rejection often feels
overwhelming and even hopeless. Although a complex emotional reaction, it is
in many ways like a phobia. The fear of rejection runs the gamut in both
severity and outward expression
Gay and lesbian people experience loss of loved ones. In an interview I conducted with Dr. Nic Theo, he revealed that he lost his parents because of being a transgender male. DJ Divalash, an international DJ from Soshanguve (in Pretoria) is disowned by his parents for being openly gay. I was forced to alternate rooms because my roommate felt acculturated by my sexuality. I lost a great friend in primary because I am gay. This results to emotional problems and addiction is often a resort (Janine 2013).
Gay and lesbian macabre killings in South Africa alone are becoming frequent (Davis 2012) yet the Constitution protects them. Thapelo Makutle, was brutally murdered in his homewtown, Kuruman for being openly gay. Makutle’s body was discovered with his genitalia placed in his mouth (Nosarka 2012). Phumeza Nkolonzi was also viciously killed by a group of men who were intimidated that she was openly lesbian (Davis 2012).
Gay and lesbian people, especially those who are have not disclosed their sexual orientations become pathological liars (Drescher, 2006, p.16):
Sullivan’s (1956) theories of dissociation elaborate how a sexual identity can be separated from the rest of one’s persona. For example, selective inattention is a common, non-pathological process, akin to tuning out the background noise on a busy street. In more intense dissociative mechanisms, double lives are lived yet not acknowledged. One sees clinical presentations of closeted gay people lying somewhere between selective inattention, most commonly seen in the case of homosexually self-aware patients thinking about “the possibility” that they might be gay, to more severe dissociation –in which any hint of same-sex feelings resides out of conscious awareness. More severe forms of dissociation are commonly observed in homosexually self-aware married men who cannot permit themselves the thought of coming out.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual people experience severe sexual repressions and lead to urges of desperate fulfillment of fantasies. This is seen in Oliver Hermanus’ Skoonheid (2011)where Francois (Deon Lotz) rapes his friend’s son Christian Roodt (Charlie Keegan) at the climax of the film. Francois deliberately becomes masochistic so that he could have Christian’s attention. They arrive at a hotel, and Francois offers Christian money for a favour, to his surprise, he is shocked to learn that he has to return the favour by having sex with him. Francois forces Christian to perform fellatio but he is reluctant. Out of frustration, Francois rapes Christian whilst he is yearning silently for help.
Some queer people also experience self-hate because they deny their sexual identities (Kisker, 1997,p.201). Lunga Ngqendeshe, a real-life character in the film connotes in an interview that a man should not possess feminine performativity. The subtext of this erroneous self-affirmation suggests that he was once discriminated and refuted for acting ‘feminine’. Self-hate like the one Lunga has is inevitable as he often seeks approval to heterosexual men, and that is reciprocal: in order for him to be socially accepted he has to act in a certain way to be regarded as masculine, to gain a sense of belonging.
Mojapelo (The Heart-Devourer) addresses homophobia by deriving a concept from an indigenous African proverb in Sepedi, “Mmapelo o ja serati, sekgethelwa ga a se rate” – which closely translates as: The heart devours what it likes and hates if you choose on its behalf. The proverb is still spoken and serves as oral tradition evidence – but confronts the contemporary homophobic African community to begin acknowledging how erased heritage causes a distorted mentality of gender identity constructs.
The film is a parable to the African state of homophobia. In the somewhat surrealistic but fantastical filmic world, the characters have to literally eat their hearts when they deny love to someone to prevent losing their minds. The devouring of the heart is a metaphor of denial as the grotesque imagery of the blood-dripping organ shows cruelty to one’s desires. The prevention of losing the mind is allegorical to the historical amnesia on homosexuality. It is only up to the protagonist, Nare to emancipate himself to pursue love regardless of validation.
The film provides a solution for African history to be re-introduced in the education system but also be revived as a Pan-Africanist movement. Sexuality and gender studies should be reinforced as compulsory subjects to eradicate amnesia and allow consciousness to prevail in the sexual liberation of the gay community in the future.
1. Anderson, B 2007, The Politics of Homosexuality in Africa. Retrieved on February 07,
2013 from http://www.africanajournal.org/PDF/vol1/vol1_6_Ben%20Douglas.pdf
2. Anti-Defamation League 2001, Homophobia. Retrieved on March 17, 2013 from
3. Fritscher, L 2013. Coping with the fear of rejection. Retrieved on March 14, 2013 from
4. Davis, R 2012, SA’S gay hate crimes an epidermic of violence less recognized. Retrieved
on March 15, 2013 from http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2012-06-27-sas-gayhate-
crimes-an-epidemic-of-violence-less-recognised/#.UU2g2xdvDs8 Rebecca Davis,
5. Nosarka, A 2012, Outrage at murder of ‘gay’ victim. Retrieved on March 12, 2013 from
6. Drescher, J 2007, The psychology of the closeted individual and coming out. Retrieved on March 14, 2013 from
1. Kisker, G., 1977. The disorganized personality. New York: Mc-Graw-Hill
1. Skoonheid, 2011. [Film] Directed by Oliver Hermanus. South Africa: Moonlighting