Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action GALA

without queer history there is no queer pride

The advancement, development and rights of LGBTI people depend on an accurate record and representation of their struggles. GALA mobilises memory by documenting and popularizing the lives and histories of LGBTI South Africans. In so doing it contributes to the development of pride, challenges homophobia and entrenches the rights of LGBTI people … (about 1/2).

Education; Board of Trustees; Patrons; Annual reports; Archives; Resources; Galleries; Library;
Postal address: P.O. Box 31719, Braamfontein, 2017, South Africa;

About 2/2 /History: GALA was established under the name The Gay and Lesbian Archives in 1997, one year after the adoption of South Africa’s new Constitution and the sexual orientation clause. 

In the words of the archives founder Graeme Reid, “It was a time to look back and recognize that something momentous had taken place. South Africa had set a precedent, and the records of how we did it seemed worth preserving.” Graeme himself had tons of stuff stored away in boxes at his house and he knew other people that did as well. All of this was in danger of being lost. One of the driving principles behind GALA’s establishment was to create a safe place in which to put this and other archival material for the future and so make sure that gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people form part of the historical record.

The archive began with a few items placed in the South African History Archive (SAHA), an archive that had been established to collect and preserve material related to the anti-apartheid struggle. These items included a few recorded interviews, organizational records, and even some T-shirts. Then a grant freed Graeme up to work on the project full-time. Soon GALA was formally established as an independent project of SAHA. Its collections were given a home within the Historical Papers Department at the William Cullen Library at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and are still kept there today. The appeal of the archives grew and a deluge of material started to come in as Graeme and his co-workers began collecting more records from organizations and individuals donated magazines, videos, letters and photographs from boxes in their closets. There was no way to keep up with the formal archival processing with the resources and the amount of information coming in, but GALA decided that could wait. The most important thing then was to collect.

In the course of its first ten years GALA’s archives have grown substantially in size and scope. Our backlog has since been addressed, and we offer researchers a professional archival service. Under the leadership of Graeme’s successor Ruth Morgan, GALA has used the strong collection that was established to reach out more effectively and to take the archives to diverse communities in order to have a strong impact on public discourses.

In 2006 GALA began the process of establishing itself as an independent Trust and NPO called Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA) in acknowledgment of the ways that GALA developed in the first ten years of its existence . It was felt that GALA had come of age as an organisation and was now ready to operate independently. GALA has proven that it is sustainable in its own right and has a niche in the archive world.

“Without queer history there is no queer pride.” This slogan that we have adopted reflects an assumption that underlies all our programmes. GALA has used exhibitions, films, books, comics and other methods to celebrate LGBT lives, build Pride in the LGBT community, and educate the public on the importance of respecting difference. In doing so we aim to ultimately influence the perception that same-sexuality is not part of African culture and bring about an understanding and acceptance of same-sexuality in an African context, thus making a dent in homophobic activities and hate crimes that stem from a lack of understanding and knowledge around LGBT issues in Southern Africa. In this way GALA has contributed to the development of a human rights democracy in South Africa. Our goal is to help make the rights that are guaranteed in our Constitution real for LGBT people.

Board of Trustees: … (full text about).

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