The Gay and Lesbian Archives (Gala) as GALA was initially known, was established in January 1997, very soon after, and motivated by, the constitutional recognition of the right of individuals to choose and not be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. This watershed moment presented an opportunity for activists to address how LGBTI people have historically been represented in South Africa, and the general absence of a noteworthy and representative archival record of LGBTI people’s experiences.
GALA was founded in 1997 to counter these forces. At its heart, our archive is a site of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) testimony, experience and culture in Africa. Our mission is first and foremost to act as a conduit for the production, preservation and dissemination of knowledge on the history and contemporary experiences of LGBTI people. In spite of enabling legislation in South Africa, LGBTIQ lived experience remains one of exclusion and invisibility. This is especially the case within poor and black communities. Hence GALA’s activist role in highlighting the human rights aspects of gay life. But GALA is a gentle activist, wielding the soft power of story and cultural expression to achieve its mission.