South Africa

Maverick Citizen Op-Ed

10s, 10s, 10s … across the board for Mother Kirvan le Cap’s Final Walk

10s, 10s, 10s … across the board for Mother Kirvan le Cap’s Final Walk
Foundation Le Cap: Nadine Le Cap, Rori Le Cap, Channel Le Cap, Berlin Le Cap, Valentino Le Cap, Ideline Le Cap. Photo: Elliot Naude.

‘Mother would’ve wanted us to be fabulous right?’ This question was executed as flawlessly and fearlessly as the outfit chosen for Mother Kirvan le Cap’s memorial. 

The next big thing, Wesley Le Cap. Photo: Elliot Naude.

The House of le Cap organised a small and private memorial, adhering to lockdown regulations, at the church of the queers, Zero21 — an inclusive queer nightclub that played host to some of Kirvan’s balls. Conspicuously positioned just off Harringtons, Zero21 has for several years been a safe space for queer blacks and people of colour; a sharp contrast to the gay clubs one may stumble into in Green Point. There was no better place to honour Kirvan Fortuin.

Decorated in pride colours, flowers, hand sanitisers and a strictly curated guest list of Kirvan’s loved ones, the memorial began. The House of le Cap took to the stage to welcome all in attendance, both on the dancefloor and online. 

“As Kirvan constantly reminded us, the ball scene would not exist without drag queens and transgender women of colour. Through them, we now enjoy the safe space that ballroom provides for members in our community,” said Nadine le Cap before asking for a moment of silence for all protestors fighting systemic oppression around the world.

Radical queer love: Matthew Le Cap.. Photo: Elliot Naude.

Standing side-by-side directly in line with the pride-flag-covered lectern, the Le Cap kids were already a vision of vibrant colours. It seemed like Mother had, indeed, told Nadine, Matte, Rori, Ideline, Valentino, Chanel, Berlin and Baby they had to be fabulous. Each of them stepped up to the microphone with a blend of strength and vulnerability. A combination many people who haven’t been “othered” by society know how to do.

The kids of the House referred to Kirvan as “a mother in every way possible”, a leader, a thinker, a sister. They fondly spoke about how he instilled in them a ballroom scene ethos that transcended just voguing — but used the dance as a vehicle for systemic change.

They say “you are who you attract” and when the fierce women’s rights activist and Artscape CEO Marlene le Roux stepped onto the platform it became clearer than ever the type of person Kirvan was.

Le Roux spoke with the conviction of a struggle hero about humanity being at the heart of Kirvan’s activism: “You can’t possess people, you can only experience them.” There was a buzz of agreement as everyone in the room, for however long, had experienced the focus he had on developing authentic relationships with every person he interacted with. 

“Their legacy will live on forever,” is something said at all memorials but, within the pink walls of Zero21, every person who stood on the stage Kirvan hosted on was a declaration to continue the fight together.

“Vision without action remains a dream,” said le Roux, “but vision with action changes the world.” She didn’t leave the stage with just another inspirational quote, as one is encouraged to do in the face of a death. The transformation stalwart called on the House and all dancers and creatives to demand visibility as active participants in the country’s economy and to be treated and paid like them.

The experienced voice: Chester Martinez. Photo: Elliot Naude.

I sat there thinking, “This is what our queer struggle icons must’ve felt when they mobilised.” It felt like the entire room collectively inhaled the opportunity to turn the loss of a Mother into a watershed moment and exhaled a love and hope that triggered a deluge of my own tears. While trying to control my sobs as I was holding the phone for the live stream, Matte le Cap came over to my spot on the floor and held me until I could breathe steady again.

Nadine le Cap summed it up flawlessly when she said, “Our Mother’s love was infinite even if his time with us wasn’t.” This is what radical love looks like.

Just before everyone at Zero21 and the House of Vineyard in Rotterdam took to the runway over Zoom to celebrate and honor those who have been discriminated against, discarded or died in true ballroom culture style, taking heartache to the runway to walk the beat and have a delicious kiki, Chester Martinez set the tune with the following declaration:

“Like the incomparable Alok says in their work, ‘For a long time, we have had to die so that they can live.’ But no more!…

“We’ve become masters of reinvention, recreation and resurrection. We die to ourselves every night, so that we may be born anew everyday. This is the magic of being queer. This is truly living. This is Ballroom.”

The House of le Cap promises that this is just the beginning. DM/MC


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