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Gil Mualem-Doron

The Alien (2020)

The Alien (2020)

A series of photos and a recorded conversation with Keith (pseudonym) – “an illegal” migrant that escapes persecution as a gay man in Malawi and moved to Cape Town, South Africa. Keith is an undocumented migrant with no rights and is facing deportation.

The video above includes a recorded conversation with Keith which was taken place before the photo shoot and a transcription of the interview can be read below.

The series "Alien" is part of the socially engaged photography project "No Man's Lands".

No Man’s Lands (2016-) is an ongoing art photography project that uses a collaborative approach to convey the stories of men that are or were in limbo circumstances due to political, social, economic, or other factors. On the surface, the portraits are of individual men, yet as a whole, they also reflect contemporary global issues such as political persecution, the effects of wars or economic inequality, racial discrimination, persecution of LGBT persons, and more. As part of his socially engaged art practice, the photoshoots are based on long conversation/s with photographs about their personal stories as well as on the ways they would like to be photographed and represent their story.

An interview with Keith

Hi my name is Keith, I am originally from Malawi and 25 years old. I've been in Cape Town for 10 years now. Leaving home, it was like one of those decision which one has to make so that you can be free somewhere, be yourself somewhere and find a better life somewhere time to have some sort of damage to created. After I finished high school, I was on holiday with my friend who was helping with some home mathematics and geography because I was good at them. So we started having an intimate and having things like that in one of those days my mom came across us busy in bed and everything like that so she chase me from my house and I had to live with this guy for a certain time. After this guy he wrote his exam, he passed and his parents brought him to South Africa so that he could further his education. So he went to the University of UJ and then he wanted me to come this side as well so that is why I came to this side. So after I came this side, things change, we didn't click that much and everything like that so I was like okay it’s fine, I’m here already, I can start my own life somewhere else and I left Jo’burg to come to Cape Town because I had one of my friends living here. So I said living by myself from then until now.

Being in Cape Town, Cape Town life is so expensive, like it's very expensive for rental. And, to get a job is very difficult as well. And the time when I came in Cape Town, newcomers, like new refugees who were not allowed to get payments in Cape Town so we need to apply in Jo’berg, or in PE, so for the time being, at that time I was young, I couldn’t get hired, and I couldn't get a proper job so that I can save up some money and go and apply for asylum and all of these ways that I have mentioned about. So up to now I’m still undocumented and I do get some paid jobs but it’s hard to get a proper job because you are foreign and secondly, undocumented. So at the moment, I'm working so hard to get myself documented, to get myself a proper job, and possibly maybe study again further because I just did my high school and I didn’t do anything further. So life here is good because I'm free, I'm myself and like back home in Malawi, it’s not gay-friendly.

Is it illegal?

It’s illegal to be gay in Malawi and here I kind of find myself. There are people who are gay, who are L. G. B. T. Q. I. I feel like it's home and I'm not thinking about going home. So I’m working towards going back to school and having a better life of living here.

Do you know any of the gay people who came from other countries in Africa in which is not legal and got asylum in South Africa because of being gay?

Not everyone is lucky to get asylum. You can even go and apply for asylum but the reason you specify like specifying about being LGBTQ like there’s some question they ask like ‘how do you have sex? Prove to us that you are gay’. How can you prove to someone so that you can get asylum, so things like that, there’s so many critical questions that they ask and then you end up failing to answer the appropriate answer. So there’s not a lot of people that I know that have and gain asylum because they do issue 1 but you go into so much screening and questioning for you to get one so it's not even easy for you to get an asylum based on your sexual orientation.

What do you need to prove to them?

I’ve got a trans woman who is from Uganda. She had to prove herself that she's trans by showing pictures of her as a man. Some of the questions which they were asking her were not like a gay guy or a trans woman and you probably know that you get sex through anal intercourse, you know, so those are the kind of questions that they do ask you. And if you’re not comfortable taking about it or you’re not free to talk about it, you’re nervous talking about it or something like that, you end up having it cancelled and not to get asylum or status or documentation and the legal paper to live in the country. So it’s not as easy as everyone thinks to get it.

Artist Biography

Gil Mualem-Doron (1970 UK/Israel) is an award-winning socially and politically engaged artist & photographer working in various media; primarily photography, digital art, installation, and performance using participatory practices. His work investigates issues such as urban history, social justice, identity, transcultural aesthetics, migrations, and displacement.

​His work has been exhibited extensively in the UK and abroad including Tate Modern, the Turner Contemporary, Liverpool Museum, People’s History Museum, Turner Contemporary, Rich Mix London, ONCA (Brighton) Haifa Museum of Art (Israel).

See more of Mualem-Doron's work here:


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