In 1998, the newly established Gay and Lesbian Archives of South Africa acquired 600 photographs and three interviews conducted with their original collector, Kewpie. The Kewpie Collection, as it is now known, remains the only official archival resource that depicts and was created by a collective of people from District Six, Cape Town, who described themselves as gays and girls and referred to each other using she/her pronouns after being assigned to the male sex at birth. Classified “Coloured” under apartheid, the girls were forcibly removed from District Six after it was declared “Whites Only” in 1966 and demolished by the nationalist government. Notwithstanding its intentions and successes, one effect of the Kewpie Collection’s archivalisation has been to obscure the work that gays and girls undertook to both survive and imagine other ways of being the world. As it is discernible in the Collection, this necessarily collaborative labour is elaborated, in this paper, as a theory-practice of worldmaking. Seeking to expand available possibilities and make diverse forms of existence more possible, the girls of District Six are presented as key agents in multiple and expansive projects to reformulate inherited conditions of social existence into new possible worlds that are indexed, in virtual form, by Kewpie’s photographs and interviews.
Ruth Ramsden-Karelse has recently submitted her DPhil thesis in English at the University of Oxford, where she is the inaugural Stuart Hall Doctoral Scholar. Ruth is also a Research Associate at the University of Manchester’s Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE). Her writing has appeared in GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies.