Maneo Mohale is one of the most brilliant minds we’ve ever met. She is an arts journalist, writer, editor and a major LGBTQI advocate, who has written for prominent publications and has also created her own platform, The Talon.
Maneo uses her extraordinary talent to create a safe space for the LGBTQI community and black women; lending them a voice in order to share their own stories and experiences.
We had the amazing opportunity to pick Maneo’s brain and chat about all the things that move her.
How did you get into the art industry?
The Art industry is extremely broad and feels a little incongruous with what I do with most of my time, (which is write and edit), but I’ve been writing for as long as I remember.
I only entered seriously into the realm of arts journalism at university, when I co-founded an online student journalism platform called The Talon alongside an incredible team and editorial collective.
I was a writer and an editor for the publication, but I really enjoyed editing there.
Soon after, I dipped my toes in all kinds of creative and journalistic writing and then landed my Global Feminism Writing Fellowship with an American feminist organization called Bitch Media, which really skyrocketed by interest in smart and sexy arts journalism.
Since then, I’m really getting a feel for the media landscape, and I’m loving the art that I am exposed to by both editing talented arts writers and trying my pen at responding to the waves made in the South African and broader global arts industries as well.The media landscape is made richer and more meaningful with our voices in it - @ManeoMohale Click To Tweet
As an advocate for the LGBTQI community, tell us about what you do, including your work with Platform Magazine
I think there’s more than a little danger in forming an identity around advocacy and activism, so I tend to bristle a bit at the solidity of thinking of myself as an ‘advocate’.
I’m hella queer, and proudly so, and because of the spaces and access that I’m fortunate to have at my fingertips through the work I do, I try my best to make space while taking space in the world.
It’s a seemingly simple praxis, but it’s rooted in the radical and innate belief that we hold each other’s lives, liberation, safety, progress, in our hands. As an editor, for Platform and others, that looked like deliberately and consciously looking for and developing the writing of black women, trans writers, queer writers, etc., especially in spaces where there are more barriers to our publications than most.
It’s quiet, gradual work, but that’s the kind of work I love best. The media landscape is made richer and more meaningful with our voices in it, and whatever part I get to play in that is a real source of joy and pride.
Who are your two favourite women artists and why?
I have a real soft spot for jazz and jazz writing, as I was raised listening to, and soaking up aspects of jazz culture since I was tiny.
Lately, I’ve really appreciated how South African jazz has widened to really centralise women and my two favourite artists right now are Thandi Ntuli and Zoë Modiga.
They’re electrifyingly talented, and I adore their approach to their craft so much. They make me want to become a better writer.I love the art that I am exposed to - @ManeoMohale Click To Tweet
Who do you look to for inspiration?
It may sound really silly, but I’m inspired all of the time, everywhere I look. I’m surrounded by passionate and creative people. They’re my ever-expanding chosen family and just basking in their light is enough to inspire me.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you can share with us?
I do! Some of them are still in the oven and developing, especially personal creative projects and publications that are forming on the horizon. But the one I’m most excited about it a queer reading series that I’m launching with some of my favourite people in the world.
It’ll be a space where trans and queer writers can read their work to an audience and share their process while building a supportive and responsive community at the same time.
We have such powerful, thoughtful, and innovative writing produced by trans and queer people here in SA, and I’m excited to lend my hand in creating a space for us to just bask in each other’s brilliance.
What advice do you have for anyone who wants to become a creative artist?
Find your family, and start where you are. Finding, building and nurturing a community of people who are both supportive and critical is how I started on this convoluted journey – they were the first people I trusted to read my work, and created a bedrock for me to test my ideas for projects and pieces.
Also, what inevitably happens is a moment when you all look around the room at each other and say: “We don’t need anyone else to start something gorgeous. We’ve got each other.”
As a Black Queer Feminist, how do you navigate through challenges in the creative industry?
I think one of my main challenges, (asides from the given ones around navigating the triple whammy of racism, sexism and homophobia), is learning how to take up space while standing my ground, especially around some of the principles and values on which I refuse to compromise.
I’m not a particularly confrontational person, and I’m quite a sensitive bean at the best times, so learning how to be firm for myself is definitely an ever-unfolding lesson. When it comes to being fierce for other people, my writers, for example, I can do that in a heartbeat.
It’s instinctual for me to be protective. But when it comes to me, well shucks. But we live and we learn, and I think I’m getting better at it, slowly.
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