Challenging Patriarchy and Heteronormativity in South African Independent Comics

cciba challenging patriarchy and heteronormativity in south african independent comics 1     cciba challenging patriarchy and heteronormativity in south african independent comics 2

Left: Illustrated self-portrait by Danelle Malan.

Right: Artel, a character from Roberto's LGBTI-topic comic strip about two gay squirrels living in the Cape Town Company's Garden.


Khumo Sebambo and the Design Indaba claim that "The face of South African comics is changing to include women artists, pirates, and gay squirrels in the Company's Gardens." This is in reference to an industry that has long been notorious for its portrayal of female characters and the fetishizing of female bodies, particularly within South African comics. The independent comic book scene in South Africa seems to be growing fast and has previously been dominated by men who despite knowing how to command a pencil, still seem to fall into the same traps of how they portray women, the LGBTI community and non-gender conforming individuals. Malan, who publishes Cotton Star both in print and online has achieved relative success with her comic but has become aware of how people treat female artists online. Sebambo quotes Malan in reference to online readership saying that the internet is often not a “female-friendly space” with readers taking advantage of their anonymity. “At the moment I see an explosion of high-quality, interesting, engaging comics by women, transgender and queer folks online.” says Malan. Sebambo looks further into the developing trend of non-heteronormative and gender-bending comics:


Cottonstar is part of the comics boom in South Africa, where several creators have begun to publish work with more diverse viewpoints and characters. The result is a larger mainstream presence of locally made comics in the country... Squeers, a comic about two gay squirrels living in the oldest cultivated pear tree in the Cape Town Company’s Garden, is one such example created by Roberto Millan. Published in LGBTI community newspaper The Pink Tongue, Squeers makes social commentary for an underrepresented community within the local comics culture but it is not afraid to combine humour and politics.


Click here to read the full article on the Design Indaba website.

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