Shebeen Queens


The work "Shebeen Queens" is dedicated to the illegal bar culture of southern Africa and its predominantly female owners - the Shebeen Queens. The word "shebeen" comes from the Irish “síbín” and connotes a bar where alcoholic drinks are served without a license.


In response to colonial politics and apartheid, these places initially served as a refuge for indigenous people, who were persecuted in the public sphere. These bars, which first started in township living rooms, spread and grew in the shadow of illegality to become commercial bars and subcultural hubs.


The project "Shebeen Queens” focuses on the female entrepreneurs who have been able to assert themselves as strong, emancipated women within this often-dangerous scene. Many of the women have been hit by strokes of fate. Some of them have lost their jobs or are no longer able to do so for health reasons, others do not have enough income from their jobs to live on, so they have to run a shebeen on the side until late at night.


Others want to enable their children to study at university and in this way finance their study fees. What they all have in common is the will and also the self-conception to fight for their independence every day despite poverty and lack of support.

Today, the image of the shebeens remains an ambivalent figure for a wide-range of social manifestations. While shebeens are places of emancipation and subculture, their environments also channel alcoholism and crime. The tension in this social phenomenon reproduces and exacerbates colonial historical structures. In her photographs, Julia immersed herself in the world of these places to tell analogous, quiet and confidential stories about these places and their owners. In pursuing this project, she hopes to enable a new way of seeing the contemporary experiences of shebeen culture and phenomena within the local society, particularly in light of Germany’s renewed effort to examine its colonial past.