Rest in Power, Mother Kirvan le Cap.

A queer pioneer, a home to many, a force of freedom, truth and a damn good time.

“Their deaths will never be in vain whilst I’m around. Today we remember those who paved the way for us and most importantly why.”

Kirvan Fortuin typed and shared this declaration in honor of World Pride Month just earlier this month. Today, it’s shattering to read his words as the queer community has been devastated by his death this weekend. Kirvan was a prominent figure in the world of dance and choreography on a local and international level. His story is not just one of another queer person of colour transcending societal boundaries and succeeding in a world built to silence him.

This is a Story of Mother Kirvan le Cap

The founder of The House of le Cap, the African Ballroom Scene, a queer pioneer, a home to many, a force of freedom, truth and a damn good time.

The House of le Cap was born three years ago. Despite multiple warnings from people who said this could damage his career, he tore through it all because he knew bringing the ballroom scene to his home country was bigger than him. “When he shook up the Cape Town scene with the balls, I had to take off my hat to him because I knew it was going to be a task. But I tell you he did that,” says Manila von Teez.

“The ball culture has always existed in Africa, long before I was born so it is something that is embedded within us”, once said Mother Kirvan le Cap. “Balls are a platform for expression and activism. It is a place where we celebrate each other and question certain things in society.”

“Too many [have] died for me to live restricted because I’m considered the other.”

The Ballroom scene was founded in the 1980s by black and latino LGBTQ individuals and led by TransWomen of colour. The culture and scene originated from Harlem, New York. Balls are still today a safe space for those who are in need of safety, love and acceptance…but for Kirvan, it was more: “The aim for me is to raise awareness on the health and wellbeing of the LGBTIQ+ community – making education on HIV/AIDS and trans health fun and accessible.”

Since House of le Cap started they have raised over R10 000 for HIV/AIDS awareness, provided food vouchers for several local NGOs and ensured that the trans community around them received their medication and treatment during lockdown.

To Live Radically, Authentically, Powerfully

During this time of both a global pandemic and a rupturing of society as we know it, systemic issues are one challenge- community, visibility and a safe space for the marginalised and oppressed is another. There’s no way to describe Mother’s impact in the latter other than by sharing the words of those close to him:

“Kirvan has been unwavering in his dedication to that vision from the moment we hosted those first two functions till the very last breath. For the first time in my entire life as a queer body, as a queer person, having a queer experience, for the first time in the country of my birth, I experienced community. In the truest sense.” – Chester Martinez

“He made it okay to walk in 6-inch heels in front of a whole crowd but knowing that that crowd is there for you. I will miss his laughs, and whenever I think of him now, and when I saw him, I’d just hear in my head: “Walk the beat, walk the beat, anybody walking? Anybody walking?” Saying, guys this is our space and we need to stand together and dominate, because you know what? We belong and we deserve and we have a right to equality.” – Nathan

“So many things that Kirvan did for me, he did for other people. Someone who wants to impact your life, not just with them being there but impacted so positively and making you want to do the same for so many other people.” – Berlin

“We refound a friendship in finding safe space and celebration… Just a couple of days ago, we were going on and on and on about Legendary and how we’re so excited for this to reach our people and celebrate our people and for our ball scene in South Africa to reach these type of heights and for us all to somehow go and explore the ball scene across the world.” – Loren Loubser

During this time the House of le Cap, Kirvan’s family- both biological and chosen- and the community need time to mourn. Details regarding how to support those who were under Kirvan’s care and the House will be made available soon.

One of Kirvan’s dear sisters, Chester closes: “Our guardian angel will continue to be the force, support, guardian and guide to all of us as we find the courage to live radically, live authentically, live powerfully, live truly as all that we are in a world that has made it its mission to extinguish our lights.”

Words: Elliot

Photos: Feature images and slide by Lauren Brits, article images by Jonathan Ferreira