Article by Neo Musangi, co-founder of Iranti.

I have been back in Nairobi for almost three years; my understanding of Nguni languages might be waning but I do hope I can start this with a name: Xolile; one who is/has been forgiven. I barely knew him by that name.  I never called him Xolile. Most of us never did. Xolile became Malume and often called himself the ‘Gentle Giant’ and gentle he was.

There is always a lot to say when people die. The work of the eulogy is to list good deeds. It is to summarise a life. Given, there is a lot to say about Malume. He was a jolly good man. There are tributes flowing on Facebook from individuals who knew him for a long time and from others who only met him once or twice. There are organisations sending in messages from across Southern Africa and the entire region. Indeed what a loss!

But I choose to speak about pictures. Malume loved pictures. He took pictures all the time. He took

pictures of himself, of fountains and of other people. Even people who met Malume once have pictures with him. As I go through Malume’s Facebook page I realize just how important it was for him to capture moments. How important it was for him to be honest. To feel and to express his moments of “feeling fabulous with…”. Malume smiled, he smiled a lot. He laughed too, heartily and often.  Malume loved, and loved deeply. He spoke of love as a blessing. He spoke of people as blessings. He spoke about his partner a lot. Where that talk was is silence and while we mourn as a movement, as a people, someone is mourning

Malume differently. Yes, Zethu Matebeni is right: “some things are not meant to be experienced alone. Mourning is one of them”. Malume’s wedding was going to be in Kenya, he told me in June 2015. That wedding won’t be. Perhaps this will be a wedding of a different kind. It will be a wedding of silent sobs and grief across the LGB & TI movement and individuals across the world. It will be a celebration of a life and a regret of a single death of a person who lived in, and with, so many souls. It will be an imagination of what Malume’s absence means individually and collectively.

Thank you Malume for sharing so many bits of you with us.

Thank you for being you.  And thank you for saying: “Emotional release comes at about the time it begins to dawn upon us how dreadful this loss is. Sometimes without warning there Wells up within us an uncontrollable urge to express our grief. It’s a good thing to allow ourselves to express the emotions as we have tear glands right!” (August 19).

Without warning, there has welled up within us an uncontrollable urge to express our grief, but within that we find only good memories of you and sithi sixolele if we don’t laugh enough today. Uhambekahle our Rock of Hope, comrade, leader, and friend.

Xolile Malume Mabuza’s funeral was held in Swaziland 6 September 2015. The Gentle Giant known to all as Malume, was memorialised by LGBTI activists from across the continent.