Written by Rhea Creado Photographs provided by Glow Makatsi
Fierce, motivated and creative at heart, you wouldn’t be wrong to assume that Glow Makatsi is the entire package. And yes, she's got a name to match her unique personality. Growing up in a society that was less than accepting of her gender identity, Glow has managed to rise through it all, and find herself through confidence, art and a unique fashion sense. Glow is a transgender visual artist who grew up in the provence of Free State, South Africa, and is all things interesting that by the end of this article you’re going to be wishing she was your best friend.
Throughout her life, gender and artistic expression played a prominent role in Glow finding her true identity — a true testament to just how important it is to encourage various forms of expression. In relation to finding her identity through gender expression, Glow says, “Gender is complex at first because it is enforced on us at quiet a young age in the formative years of existence, so to find out that the enforcement and teaching of gender roles is actually not natural, has been a lot. It taught me that my existence was a shameful one. Something which is now tied in with the advent of colonialism and christianity, but also a lot of it is patriarchal ideas entrenched in my cultures ancient living forms.” Despite it all, Glow isn’t one to look for sympathy, because her story is far from that. Instead Glow has taken every opportunity in her stride to constantly grow and learn from life’s everyday challenges.
Of her gender identity, Glow says, “I now identify as a trans-woman. My gender-fluidness was actually me negotiating and coming to terms in a lot of ways with my true self [and] forming a congruent foundation of the self through self-expression/exploration through art and portraiture.” Of course, in the world we live in today, traditional gender roles have a very defining quality to an individual’s life, and whilst it is important that we as a human race work towards changing perceptions of traditional gender binaries in order to encourage acceptance of varying forms of gender, Glow has taken it upon herself to begin this change, and she does so through her art. “Art and self-expression was that one form of creation that allowed for the safe un-learning of these ideas I was force fed,” Glow says.
It’s as if the universe has especially sent to us this beautiful free-spirited being, because despite the hurdles, Glow states “my everyday life is beautiful. I do have those sporadic challenges but generally my life is bright and full of joy, I strive for joy and growth each day when I wake up.” If only everyone in life had the same positive outlook that Glow has, what a world this would be. Am I right?
“Always make a choice which holds growth for you, it may be uncomfortable, but only in discomfort do we grow to our full potential.”
A sample of Glow Makatsi's Digital Artworks
In 2015, Glow began an activism art project that addresses the traditional gender roles and stereotypes surrounding black masculinity. Influenced by her South African culture in which gender is still stereotyped, and artistic expression and activism is not necessarily encouraged, Glow has created an art piece that portrays her personal struggles, observations and love for art. “There is an unsaid power in pictures, that cognitively registers in the subconscious in incredible ways,” says Glow. In this digital piece, Glow portrays African men, juxtaposed with feminine symbolism such as floral imagery. Of the art series, Glow says, “I found it to be problematic [that] black men where not allowed certain ways of expressing the varied forms of existence through emotions, well into what they like should entertain. For black men, the imagery (in movies etc) was always hard core, never soft and and mushy and allowed that delicateness. The flowers and my body in that project was to bring back these images and two isolated worlds together again.” Through this project, Glow has created a piece of incredible value as she blurs the lines of gender whilst also proving how powerful art can be as a means of evoking social change.
When it comes to gender, and the binaries that society puts us in, Glow's philosophy is simple. She believes that we as people should be more accepting towards forms of gender identity that stray away from the traditional “male” and “female” binaries, “simply because it is healthy and a natural way to view the scope of infiniteness we live in. To simply exist without boxes and defined modes of being is liberating”. Glow goes on to say that “gender markers and essentialized/socialized ideas of boy and girl are slowly losing relevance as more people come to terms with our history as a people and the various ways our experiences manifest. This includes ideas on sex, race, gender… A lot is changing, and I look forward to that with optimism of cause."
If only we all encouraged art-making and practiced acceptance towards everyone’s differences, “Can you imagine the harmony and less violence?” says Glow. What a beautiful world it would be, indeed. “Art allows us to create, and we are creators at birth, that is how we even come into being because we're created by our parents and the holy one in hand as well of course. So to go back to that remembrance of self as infinite creators will remind us of the vast nature of our wealth to be, to exist, to explore,” says Glow. Her creative streak is evident in all areas of her life, from her fashion sense, digital art projects and her love for conceptualising photo shoot ideas. With a love for make up, dressing up, reality television (YES!) and wait for it, reading metaphysics, astrology, numerology and the relevance of ancient texts in modern day life!!!! You didn’t see that last one coming, right? “I recently just finished reading Bruce Lipton's the biology of belief” she says, “a brilliant book if you ask me, whoa. Thankful i came across it.” Yup, she is definitely all kinds of amazing. What did I tell you… you’d love her before the end of this article.
Go forth readers, and live a little like Glow. Spread some positivity, acceptance and creativity just as she does, and maybe we’d all “glow” a little more if we did.