Issue 10, December 2014
LOVE AS REVOLUTIONARY PRACTICE
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e are two African feminists, travellers, creators, activists, sister-resistors and friends who were lucky to find each other through our lives work. Recognising that we shared much in common, one day we started talking about “love” and thinking about what it meant in our work, in our relationships, in our communities and all the spaces we moved through. On February 14, 2012 (Valentines Day), we decided to offer those conversations to the world through an online platform called: “Our Space is Love” (ourspaceislove.tumblr.com). The idea was to create an online forum offering what we described as an “oasis, a meeting point and well to quench our poetic, revolutionary and questioning thirsts. Our
SpaceIsLove offers an embrace to anyone whose intent is to clear ground for all people to be respected, have full rights, claim space in the public and private, be celebrated for who they are”. We began by posting poetry, photography, quotes from interviews, theory, video clips, cultural resources produced by friends and strangers that resonated with our idea of ‘revolutionary love.’ The space also acted as an inspiration for our own art and expression and, as two traveller/nomads, we also started to post photographs that highlighted expressions of “love on the streets” in the world cities we travelled through. We built a playlist of love songs that spoke to self-love, community love, and love in its broadest sense as a force of transformation. We asked sisters, friends, and kin what self-love looked like and felt like to them. We opened up our hearts for healing and sought to build community across virtual space.
On ‘OurSpaceisLove’ we offer our own definition of revolutionary love: When we say ‘Love’ we are talking about a concept beyond romance. We are talking about the feeling emanating from your heart that seeks to instigate liberation in all we do - individually and collectively. We are talking about the intentional act of embracing people who may be different from us but share the fact of being human. We are talking about love that inspires the desire to create spaces of peace for people harassed by dis crimination and violence. We are talking about a love that motivates us to give, share, risk and speak up in the name of our collective happiness (for which, of course,we need structural transformation- power through the people!). We are thrilled to work with Q-Zine editing this special issue that focuses on Love. As we read through all of the submissions and considered all of the ways people are thinking about and acting in ‘Love’, we were moved to re-connect with each other again and build on our own understandings of revolutionary love. The contributions in this issue are a beautiful reflection of the way people are transgressing, finding love and light in seemingly dark spaces….the way people are organising and building communities centered around love and creativity and justice. What an honour to share space with all the amazing contributors published and unpublished - thank you for living in love!
Amina and Jessica
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Illustration by Karen Watson
Coverpage Photo by Andrew Esiebo OurSpaceIsLove Blog: ourspaceislove.tumblr.com/ Contact: OurSpaceIsLove@gmail.com Q-zine Website: www.q-zine.org Issuu: www.issuu.com/q-zine Twitter: @q_zine Contact: contact@.org Lead editor
John McAllister (Botswana) Managing Editor Mariam Armisen (Burkina Faso)
Graphic Designer Nye’ Lyn Tho (U.S.A.)
Translator Abdou Bakah Nana Aichatou (Niger) Alice Vrinat (France/Belgium) Anthony Sedibo Phaladi (Botswana/ China) Brian Doe (USA/Senegal) Joshep (Morocco/Spain) Michael Kémiargola (France) Patrice L. (France) Philippe Menkoué (Cameroon) Stéphane Simporé (Burkina Faso) Issue 10, December 2014 | 5
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
Q-Zine | Love as Revolutionary Practice | Issue 10, December 2014
Love as Revolutionary Act
Q &A 10-12
Amina & Jessica
Stories of Our Lives Feel the Image
Amanda T. McIntyre
Under the West Indian Sky
PERSONAL STORY 30-31
Either Female or Criminal
Jessica Patricia Kichoncho Karuhanga Blank
A - Chouf
OUT & ABOUT 32-35
Black Women and Vulnerability 6 | Issue 10, December 2014
Siphiwe Nkosi Midnight Hour
Poetic Just – Us
Portraits of Queer Nigerians
Love on the Streets
For Kirabo and Grace
This City, This Body
Rania Bennaceur Love Has No Gender
Love against Homophobia
Show & Tell
Mariane Amara Our Struggle
Olumide Popoola Variation on a Theme of Stardust
It’s A Girl
Giving up on Love
A Fierce Love
Reflections: I Still Remember…
The Voice is the First to Go
Shishani Vranckx Minority
CONTRIBUTORS Afifa Aza grew up in Spanish Town, St. Catherine,
Jamaica. She is the co-founder of two alternative spaces – for art, learning, culture, growth and dialogue. The other is ‘Di Institute for Social Leadership’. Afifa lives as an artist and a creative, grounded in a Rastafarian/ African spirituality. Music is her art and she designs spaces inspired by music.
Gayle Bell’s work has been featured in a number of
Alexis Teyie is a 21-year-old Kenyan studying
Jessica Horn is a feminist writer, poet and women’s
History at Amherst College. She writes poetry and speculative fiction, and is especially invested in gender justice.
A. M.: 22, born and raised in Sousse, currently majoring in English literature and civilization. She is an aspiring writer who’s aiming for a career in professorship.
Amanda T. Mc Intyre is a Trinidadian writer. She is
a graduate of the University of the West Indies with First Class Honours in Literatures in English and she is currently pursuing a Master of Philosophy in the same discipline. Her thesis focuses on theatre in Trinidad, looking specifically at the musical plays of Derek Walcott. Amanda is one of the directors of WOMANTRA; a Caribbean based feminist group, geared towards woman centered scholarship, activism and social programs. She also conducts classes in Creative Writing at her home in El Dorado. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dorothy Attakora - Gyan straddles multiple often
conflicting positionalities. With identities as hyphenated as her last name, she is always keen on pushing boundaries and disrupting taken for granted assumptions of normativity. She is currently completing her Doctorate at the Institute for Feminist and Gender Studies at the University of Ottawa and invested in studying the processes, discourses and practices of solidarity building across differences within transnational feminist networks, with a particular interest in women organizing around food sovereignty.
anthologies. In 2013-2014, she was a Co-Exhibitor for My Immovable Truth-A Dallas Lineage put on by MAP (Make Art With Purpose). She facilitated her and other GLBTQY’s oral history and performances. She can be contacted at email@example.com rights activist with roots in Uganda. Her life’s work focuses on questions of sexuality, health, violence, and embodied liberations.
Jessica Karuhanga is an artist of Ugandan descent
currently based in territories of the Haudenosaunee and Mississaugas of New Credit or Toronto Canada. Her practice serves as an instrument for mediating on her multitude of roles and subjectivities in a constellation of blackness. She is deeply invested in and embedded by the displaced fibres and fissures of her hybrid flesh. Her aesthetic undulates between text, video, performance and drawing.
Joseph defines himself as a translator for social change. Hailing from Europe, his interest in human rights activism, particularly LGBTI issues, grew deeper after he moved to Morocco during the Arab Spring. Since then, he has collaborated as subtitler and translator in several artivist projects.
Kampire Bahana lives and writes in Kampala, about
the city, about Africa, music, art, resistance, love, women, culture, politics and all those other things that mean everything and nothing at once. You can read more of her work at vuga.wordpress.com.
Kalfou Danje is a poet, writer, filmmaker, who
worships Erzulie Dantor, and in life tries to master the art of being where she/he is not expected.
Issue 10, December 2014 | 7
in Namibia to a Belgian father and a Namibian mother. Her solo career took off after her performance at the 2011 Namibian Annual Music Awards grabbed the nation’s attention. A year later she won the prestigious Last Band Standing (live band) competition in Namibia and was a headliner at the Windhoek Jazz Festival (2012) performing alongside the South African stars Lira & Selaelo Selato . The spread of her music and message was recognized when her song “Minority” was nominated for Best Single Non Album and Best Music Video at the 2013 Namibian Annual Music Awards. Her music addresses social issues leading comparisons to be made to artists like Tracy Champan, Nneka and Bob Marley. Most recently she won the Amsterdam pop music competition “Mooie Noten” (2013) because she “has strong lyrics and something to say.”
Seyi Adebanjo is a Queer gender-non-conforming
Nigerian MFA media artist. Seyi’s work is the intersection of art, media, imagination, ritual and politics. Seyi has been an artist in resident with Allgo and is currently a fellow with The Laundromat Project. Their powerful short Trans Lives Matter! Justice for Islan Nettles has screened on PBS and at 17 festivals globally.
Khouloud Mahdhaoui is a Tunisian lesbian
feminist, camerawoman and filmmaker by profession and audiovisual activist.
Mariane Amara is a lesbian activist living in Came-
roon. A psychologist by training, she is passionate about the issues of gender identities as well as gay and lesbian literature. You can follow her blog at http://fleur-d-afrique-noire.blog4ever.com/
Musa Okwonga is a poet, author, sportswriter, broad-
caster, musician, public relations consultant and commentator on current affairs, including culture, politics, sport, race, gender and sexuality.
Olumide Popoola is a London-based Nigerian-
German author, speaker and performer. Her publications include essays, poetry, short stories, the novella this is not about sadness, the play text Also by Mail, as well as recordings in collaboration with musicians. She lectures creative writing and is currently completing a PhD in creative writing. In 2004 she won the May Ayim Award in the category Poetry. www.olumidepopoola.com
Rania Bennaceur, a 21-year-old English student,
Tunisian blogger and activist in the process of sculpturing her first paths.
Rita Nketiah is currently a Ph.D. student studying the
trend of return migration amongst second-generation Ghanaians in Canada. In her creative writing, she covers themes such as African immigrant identity, race, and sexuality. Rita mainly writes memoir and creative non-fiction essays. She hopes to return to Ghana some day soon to contribute to the African feminist movement and continue with her writing.
Shishani Vranckx is a soulful singer-songwriter born 8 | Issue 10, December 2014
Stéphane Ségara is a young Burkinabe activist who
is interested in using communications as an activist tools. Writing, particularly the expression of emotion through words is an important vehicule for him. His imagination and personal experiences are his favorite source of inspiration.
Siphiwe Nkosi has been taking photographs for some
time now. For her photography is the reflection of the self and society and it can create long lasting memories. She has documented rural and urban forms of living and in 2010, documented South Africans during the FIFA world cup, which was the highlight of her career. She is also an avid filmmaker, involved in experimental films.
Tatenda Muranda is a Pan-Africanist and a self-
identified suit in a feminist activist. She is co-founder of HOLAAfrica! and currently sits on the Advisory Committee for FRIDA The Young Feminist Fund. @ IamQueenNzinga
Thank you all from...
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Love as Revolutionary Prac
The idea of revolutionary love as ‘unbound,’ ‘freeing,’ as a political act and as full of endless possibility has undoubtedly transformed the way I relate to others and to myself
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AMINA & JESSICA IN CONVERSATION
Illustration by Asilia
hat first moved you to think about or explore revolutionary love as a concept?
The impetus for my fascination with the idea- and experiments in the practice- of revolutionary love was actually my mother. As a teenager she would say to me “to love is to free, to love someone is to free them”. She has a politics shaped by Marxist, feminist, anti-apartheid and decolonial thinking and by the particular experiences of her own early life in rural Uganda. She wrote recently: “my commitment to feminist values grows out of my genuine love and respect for the woman who raised me and protected me as a child. As an adult that founding love and respect has progressively been translated into a renewed commitment to women and politics in general”.
I have to admit that tears rolled down my face reading this as I realised that in a way my own embrace of revolutionary love is part of this inheritance, part of a legacy of crafting a love that serves the interests of freedom. So revolutionary love to me is a concept very much rooted in left/ redistributive post-colonial politics, in feminisms and, most potently, in motherlove.
ow does that play out in your own life and worlds of activism, relationships, ways we relate in society? lives? The idea of revolutionary love as ‘unbound,’ ‘freeing,’ as a political act and as full of endless possibility has undoubtedly transformed the way I relate to others and to myself. It has taught me
to think differently about self-care and my own sustainability, the ways that we look after each other as sisters, brothers, friends, comrades, family. It has also helped me re-configure my understanding of what it means to be in partnership WITH and how to share intimacy in ways that honour my beloved ones. Let me begin with this idea of self-care. Audre Lorde called it self-preservation, “an act of political warfare”, Toni Cade Bambara called it out when she said: “If your house ain’t in order, you ain’t in order, ” Ntozake Shange reminded us that “to take pleasure in ourselves is subversive.” One of the things I have learned is that self-care is the key to my survival and that if I truly ‘loved’ myself (in a way that is revolutionary), then I would make room for whatever it is that I need to survive. In my life, that has meant creating an environment that allows me to be creative, healthy and strong. It has meant embracing all the parts of myself - the good and the not-so-good, the ferocious and the peaceful, my fire and my water energies. My selfcare is by all means a process and every moment of every day I do the revolutionary work of asking myself: “what do I need to feel safe, secure and honest about who I am”? In terms of my relationships, I have learned to hold people with care and with intention. To hold them close to my heart centre and to truly do the work required to love them….because love is work! It’s not just some airy-fairy feel-goodness (even though it does and should feel good)…but it is hard work! Reconceptualizing love in this way has meant challenging myself to spend the time required to come to an understanding for myself of what it means to love and to love deeply. It has taught me to recognise that my physical and emotional health and wellness is linked to that of my community and that to love myself is to commit myself to supporting the healing and well-being of Issue 10, December 2014 | 11
those around me….to step into what brother Darnell Moore has described as “acting in deep participation with each other”. It has also helped me to shift the ways in which I view intimacy. For me, love as manifested through intimacy should be about possibility, it should seek to push open, and break free in the most pleasurable sense. We must be careful though, because love is also in many ways about power and we must also seek to deconstruct and unlearn some dangerous discourses lest we find ourselves replicating the very ideologies and systems we are seeking to dismantle.
hy are concepts of revolutionary love important?
Politics is emotional. Economics is emotional. Exclusion is emotional. Activism is emotional. Psychic autonomy is emotional. Liberation is emotional. In evoking, exploring and living a politics of revolutionary love we are acknowledging that our work is not just about challenging the structural architecture of injustice but in shifting how we feel. I think we also need in our activist work to constantly feed the positive, to instigate joy and to create resources of inspiration that can nourrish our work for inclusive, just and nonviolent societies. Love is that resource. I walk alongside you because I care about your happiness, I want your freedom because your freedom is also my freedom. I agree whole-heartedly with you Amina that self-love is an important part of this. As a luminary feminist mentor-friend of mine Hope Chigudu says “do we really think we can transform the world if our own bodies and spirits are broken”?
hat moves you in the ways that people have explored revolutionary love in this Issue?
There are so many beautiful love stories in this issue. What a pleasure it was to read all the submissions! I think what has touched me the most is being able to reflect on the many ways people are envisioning love that is trangressive, bold and imaginative. I hope folks reading this issue enjoy it as much as we have!
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 Caroline Bazarrabusa Horn in Voice Power and Soul II: Portraits of African Feminists. Accra: AWDF, 2012
LOVE AS REVOLUTIONARY ACT Words by Seyi Adeganjo, Photos by Seyi Adebanjo & Osaretin Ugiagbe
Love is a revolutionary act during these trying times in the world, in our hearts and minds.
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As a Queer Gender Non Conforming Nigerian who uses art as activism I take it one breath at a time, and one day at a time. Love is a revolutionary act during these trying times in the world, in our hearts and minds.
we can stand fully in our brokenness and hope. That we can fully express our sorrow and fight. That even when our dreams are shattered and there is no evidence of Grace, we are never alone.”
Who I am and what I envision for the world are build upon many pillars in this global conversation about Human rights, Queerness, Blackness, and Africanness. It is outside the prescribed category of gender and race, mainstream Queer media/ and heteronormative, transphobic xenophobic white supremacist/ privilege Queer movements
Trans Lives Matter! Justice for Islan Nettles is a powerful and intensely moving document of a community vigil/ spiritual for Islan Nettles a transgender Womyn of Color, concerning her spirit and life. Islan was a vibrant 21-year-old womyn of Color growing up in Harlem, who loved hanging out with her transgender sisters of color. Islan used her creative and positive energy along with her anti-violence values in her previous work at the Harlem Children’s Zone as an assistant photographer and fashion instructor. She was working as an intern assistant designer at Ay’ Medici in Harlem. Islan’s murder was a shocking hate crime because she was beat to death in front of a Harlem police precinct on W. 148th St & Frederick Douglas Boulevard.
One of those pillars is: Bridging spirituality and social justice. Honoring and reclaiming indigenous ways of healing, practicing spirituality and organizing. Ensuring these practices, which are viewed, as private and personal spiritual conversations/practices are visible and pillars in our politics is important. We need to ensure that conversations about religion aren’t just about institutions, that they are political conversation about spirituality. Our ancestors and present day healers/ spiritual leaders were/ are being killed, persecuted for these technologies. When we gathered for ritual/ honoring the divine/ mother earth/ our murdered community members, we organized our communities; we liberated ourselves and strengthened our inner selves for the fight. Sharon Bridgforth states “The Spirituals invite us to know that multiple things can be true at the same time: That
I was inspired to create the exhibition at the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art with Queer/ Art/ Mentorship because we can mourn & celebrate life, we can love, liberate each other and not oppress ourselves. Because the personal is political! Because the brutal and increasing attacks on Trans Womyn of Color are outrageous, and their victimization causes outrage. Because the murders of Queer Trans/Gender Non Conforming People of Color is the second wave of lynching’s. Because healing and action tighten our fists and boom our voices.
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Actively showcasing Queer Trans/Gender Non Conforming People Of Color is imperative and urgent because if people continue to think the divine doesn’t love them, how will people get strength to fight, love, live and worship? For any of us to do this work on an individual/ community/ institutional level, we need to know we matter and see ourselves reflected. One of the ways we are visible is within our gender expression. Gender is a dangerous conversation because it makes people uncomfortable and moves them to violence. Supporting others in being visible, overcoming personal and institutional trauma’s are rooted in my politics of using love to liberate. Which means taking risk, speaking up when I see injustice and am afraid. Being courageous to live and supporting community to live everyday and creating as much love, fulfillment, success and joy we feel we are worthy. Trans Lives, Queer Lives, African Lives and My Life Matter! Courage and love are necessities to live our lives fully and liberate our communities. More on Seyi’s work 1. The exhibition page at Leslie Lohman
2. Current project about being Queer & Gnc in Nigeria https://www.facebook.com/OyaWestAfrica?ref=hl
Something Happened On The Way To West Africa!
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Follow my journey as a Queer Gender Non Conforming Nigerian as I return home to speak directly with ancestors, connect with Òrìsà (African God/dess) tradition, and follow a trail back to the powerful legacy of my great grandmother, Chief Moloran Ìyá Ọlọya. This personal and political story vibrantly investigates the heritage of command, mythology, gender fluidity and womyn’s power in indigenous Yorùbá spirituality. As I encounter obstacles of a national strike and anti-gay marriage legislation to find the roots of the practice, will I be able to take on this inheritance? The documentary illuminates the lives of Òrìsà Ọya (Warrior Goddess), Chief Moloran Ìyá Ọlọya and Seyi Adebanjo while interweaving Yorùbá mythology, poetry, performance, and interviews.
3. Upcoming screening, Q & A in New York City http://cinema.tisch.nyu.edu/object/GRNYU.html
Gender Reel NYU: Transgender Film Festival showing Trans Lives Matter! Justice for Islan Nettles Event Date: February 7-8, 2015
4. Screening and exhibiting photos from the film Trans Lives Matter! Justice for Islan Nettles
At the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference June 4-6th, 2015
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ISSUE 11 COMING UP IN JUNE 2015
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UNDER THE WEST INDIAN SKY
Words by Amanda T. McIntyre & Photos Steve Hernandez
In tonight’s torrents I think the time to tell has come. It is with a great amount of contrived patience that I produce this correspondence. I would have written sooner but the weather prevented me. The sky hidden away in her grey blankets refused to give counsel and I couldn’t make the decision on my own. I couldn’t find the words by myself. I couldn’t approach you without mediation. When we met I felt the first drops of the rainy season. It was, for me, the most definitive, duplicitous and sensual moment of the year; a time that gave me the ability to align my imagination with actual experiences of you and start the production of this work. I wish our moment could have remained but there was too much rain. It was beautiful but it made me realise that my approach was wrong. In the year’s twilight when I see the season approaching its natural conclusion, I write to you out of no desire except, that you finally know that I love you and I’m sorry. I write to you out of the memory of
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the time when all I could give you were words, when the only commitments I could make were literary, but what you needed was not the rainy season of my imagination but a real reign of love growing upwards and outwards from a troubled history.
I wanted to create a space for us to find accommodation, that we could crawl into and make love uninterrupted; a space like an off-road bar east of Arima called ‘Time and Place’ where all the patrons are women who toast to life, touching their lips to the wet rims of glasses, intoxicated by the disinhibition afforded through this kiss. A space like a matikor night that goes on forever with no bridegroom, with no pundit circling like a corbeaux, waiting to swoop down to devour the woman’s name and regurgitate her animated corpse into the after-life of marriage; no girls lost forever; only wholeness and truth and celebration; safety and the blessed communion of the saints, who eat the flesh and drink the wine of the salvation found between the legs of the divinely feminine universe, undulating in the ecstasy of an atmosphere saturated with a volup-
tuously female energy. This was how my mind distilled my raw emotions to produce a refined love for you. This practice of constantly translating you into images was both incorrect and selfish, as it exposed us to the cruellest form of censorship, reality. I was not prepared to confront this truth and ultimately, I now realize, the only way you could have engaged me as yourself, a self I fragmented for artistic convenience, was through antagonism. How were we to know that it would come to this estrangement? What were the signs? What was it
I couldnâ€™t find the words by myself. I couldnâ€™t approach you without mediation. that made us believe that rain came from the sky through some magical device? Once I had a dream and in it I saw myself asleep. I walked away from the bed leaving my body at rest and went into the most curious of adventures. Suddenly, I was lost and when I realized this I grew anxious. In desperation I tried to make my way back to my room but, before I was able to return I woke up. It is from this dream of you that I find myself awakening.
This letter is my attempt to investigate my still not properly understood consciousness of you and also to simply address certain truths at the end of a season of love; the rainy season. Please forgive me. Forgive my mind for the metaphors it meticulously manufactured; that separated the parts of a woman whose existence was the only legitimacy she ever needed. Forgive my heart, which loved that process more than it loved you, and please forgive all my flawed affections still confined in the limitations set by this language. I hope earnestly that my words find you in good health and I pray that with them you receive my peace on this occasion. Under the West Indian sky, Sirjane NOTES: Arima: Arima is a borough in East Trinidad. Matikor: In the traditional three day long Hindu wedding practice, Matikor is the name given to the first day. Only women are allowed to participate in the matikor night gathering. The bride to be is instructed by older women about sexual matters. The process is done through humour, role-play and dance. It is a sexually open environment dominated by women. Courbeaux: A scavenger bird akin to vultures.
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A FIERCE LOVE Poem By Olumide Popoola & Painting by Nathan Majola (c) 2014
when to drown or drop all that stands in-between wounded fearing holding you away from me? we do not believe in tough love that disguises hurting more just to prove a point for wild black girls who are determined to live trying to make your desires irresistible to others (Audre Lorde) we ache and embrace our vulnerabilities to be vulnerable a vision hard fought for in a world of endless hardness if you cannot feel there is nothing to heal for let alone make better who said that to be all open wouldnâ€™t be the most daring of all? in itself a beginning an end courageous fierce love who said that light gentle bestowing, resisting all odds rooting sinking deep is not the bravest form of fierce?
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BLACK WOMEN AND VULNERABILITY Words by Dorothy Attakora & Photos by Mateen Khalid
African Women Cultivating New Forms of Trust & Resistance in Activist Circles
n a crisp fall day, bundled up in an oversized sweater, riding boots and a toque, I set out to go apple picking with my colleagues. The apple orchard was vast and beautiful. It was all sorts of delicious shades of green. As if the succulent bright oranges, reds and yellows of the leaves had been handpicked and carefully, very strategically paired with the lush green rows of apple trees. I was surrounded by beautiful allies, feminists who like myself have bodies marked in nuanced ways, setting us up in opposition to the dominant white male gaze. I was remarkably aware of the ways in which my body was being consumed. The stares, the shy glances, the wide eyes that looked away when they met with mine. I could feel the buzzing curious minds, the questions that were brewing, 24 | Issue 10, December 2014
likely about my hair, my round and dark body. And yet there was a glaring realization that while this was happening, simultaneously, parts of me were being rendered invisible. Whenever I feel put on display, like my body has invited others to build a scaffold of sorts and placed me at the centre, I become aware of all the stories about me that are never highlighted. I wonder if my Ashante and Fanti ancestors shrink in their graves when I am oversimplified as ‘Black’. Is there room for my tribal identities to share space with my blackness? In these moments I am always reminded of my ‘African’ness’. One brush alone cannot paint all the shades that are bursting within. I want to remind people that I am more than the sum of my parts but instead I self- monitor, shrink up, police my movements, and surveillance my body.
I WANTED DESPERATELY TO SHARE WITH THE OTHER WOMEN that had accompanied me how I
had to work myself up that day to join them. That experience of being a minority, of walking alone even when in a crowd can be unbearable. That although I love nature and the outdoors, reminders of my experiences growing up in small town Ontario continue to make me numb at times, and without the slightest warning. How do I share with these women that having recently watched 12 Years a Slave the rows of apple trees triggered awful slave narratives like books I had grown up reading such as Roots, Amistad, and The Book of Negroes. All at once I found myself engaged in a balancing act, of working through my triggers, suppressing negative experiences of my past and working desperately not to surrender to my fears. This was a level of vulnerability I had not expected and it required unspoken trust in my colleagues to keep from unraveling completely . The experience meant I was reliant on them not to engage in language or acts that would be equally as triggering, but I couldn’t communicate this to them. This is not the first time I have felt this. I have experienced similar inexpressible moments while organizing in collaboration within activist’s circles. I don’t want to impress upon anyone the notion that not coming undone is something to be ashamed of, commended or that one should work through internal triggers alone. I want to avoid this idea that demands individuals carry the burden, and I most certainly want to avoid stigmatizing or even endorsing mental health constructions that applauds the ‘model citizen’ as one that does not ‘leak’ their problems into the public. In no way do I purport to say that my ‘keeping it together’ on the outside, while navigating all these various emotions on the inside is a best practice. However, I want to provide a personal example of how difficult it is to engage in the work we do as activist, even when working with allies.
s a collective, not only were we eclectic and aesthetically beautiful, together we were queering spaces, more specifically apple orchards! At the same time, I was hyper aware of how I was also racializing the
space and doing so alone. I had ample opportunity to share what was unfolding within, yet I could not formulate any words, any language to share with them what I was feeling. I was expressionless, caught in what I call, an inexpressible moment, what Toni Morrison calls ‘those unspeakable things, unspoken’. There is a level of vulnerability that comes with exposing tensions that others cannot identify with. There are the fears that come from being conditioned to believe that you will be read as hyper- sensitive, irrational, angry and in my case, the ungrateful African immigrant (I am never read as Canadian citizen although I am). Audre Lorde (1984) says, “Women of color, grow up within a symphony of anger, at being silenced, at being unchosen, at knowing that when we survive, it is in spite of a world that takes for granted our lack of humanness, and which hates our very existence outside of its service. We as Black women have had to learn to orchestrate those furies so that they do not tear us apart, we have had to learn to move through them, and use them for strength and force and insight within our daily lives. Those of us who did not learn this difficult lesson did not survive, and part of my anger is always libation for my fallen sisters”. As someone studying solidarity building across differences within transnational feminist networks, the apple orchard became for me a microcosm of the very thing, which I am deeply invested in understanding.
THAT FALL DAY BECAME MY ENTRY POINT into wanting to create dialogue
around the silencing and self- surveillance that takes place within feminist circles even when they aren’t voiced. In the end I eventually shared my apple orchard experience with my colleagues. None of them had experienced such discomfort nor had they even known I was working through all of those things during the trip. Yet as women, at some point we had each worked through some tension that day that we had not shared with the others. What I realized was this, everyone has their ‘orchard’ where they sit with discomfort while organizing as activists, and these types of experiences can be very painful. What does this mean for us as women, as activists coming together to organize? I believe deeply that such experiences point to how we are cultivating Issue 10, December 2014 | 25
new ways of trust, vulnerability and resistance as activists. I wonder how many other African women work through internal ‘stuff ’ when meeting in a diverse collective. As an African woman myself, I know all too well what the world has been conditioned to think of me. I know that even within feminist movements many women (not all) grew up with the World Vision narratives of flies swarming our swollen bellies. I am aware that colonization, imperialism have created a world where some consciously or unconsciously still perceive Africans as less than the brilliant beautiful people that we are. I know that my journey in academia as a feminist, a womanist, I have had to be purposeful about claiming my identity as an African- feminist. Some are shocked to discover that there is even such a thing as African feminists, as we African women are usually the subjects Western feminists are trying to ‘save’.
am always reminded “ofImy ‘African’ness’. One brush alone cannot paint all the shades that are bursting within.”
Let me stop here and say that I by no means want to homogenize all African women, nor do I think we all experience such inexpressible moments in our day-to-day lives as activists. There are many ways we are pushed to cultivate and re-define new forms of organizing. Furthermore, there is no one fixed conceptualization of an African woman. I acknowledge that my use of the term African women, limits the endless possibilities of all the nuances that come together to shape our various bodies and minds. I know that by taking on such language I make invisible all the parts of us that makes me uncomfortable when I am put on display. I do however, believe that community work, organizing, and activism is particularly difficult, complicated by the very thing we are proud of, our African identity. I can’t deny that my identity as an African feminist doesn’t make me reflect on the tools I need to equip myself with when organizing, or that love is my weapon of choice each time. It takes love, unfiltered, un-afraid, ‘stand in this pain until the end’ type of love to keep me going in this fight against patriarchy, misogyny and so many other vile forms of oppression. What are the uses of my past pains? How do I remain tender during inexpressible moments? These practices are 26 | Issue 10, December 2014
rooted in love. Love for my ancestors, my people, my community, the work, the end goal, and myself. Love keeps me going during the difficult moments I feel stuck and unable to express myself.
“The ways in which we swim in and out of oppression, the ways in which we tread murky waters as oppressor.”
he ways in which we swim in and out of oppression, the ways in which we tread murky waters as oppressor. There is nothing neat or tidy about our identities, and thus our interactions with each other cannot be perceived as such. To negotiate tensions, those spoken and unspoken, those things that get left out, that go unsaid or unexpressed are difficult (Takemoto, 2001). I am reminded that although a scar may be healed it nevertheless opens us up to the previous time the wound was opened. There tends to be a continuous reopening of the wound (Takemoto, 2001). The voices of women who continue to step into the reopening of wounds by engaging in activist organizing should not be negated. The ways in which we as African women take up activism, engage from the ground up, is a wonder, a miracle. By negotiating past hurts, past traumas, we as African women engaged in solidarity building across differences indeed cultivate new ways of organizing to include trust and vulnerability. In Sisters of the Yam, bell hooks (1993) shares how by moving ourselves from manipulated objects to self- empowered subjects, Black women have by necessity threatened the status- quo. By engaging in radical organizing grounded in love, African feminists disrupt traditional ideas about what it means to engage in activism. We re-imagine the various possibilities of collaboration despite past negative experiences and continue to create new forms of organizing. By engaging in practices that have sought to (and continue to) marginalize African women, some continue to utilize love as a tool of political resistance and survival. The very work we engage in is spiritual, the relationships and dyna-
mics we foster must be grounded in spirituality, in love.
ccording to bell hooks, love is a combination of six ingredients: care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect and trust. Love has a place in I say yes to all the warm emotions in community work, in activism and solidarity building, particularly across differences. Emotions are often written out of organizing, devalued and negated. Love should not be seen as in opposition and in conflict with logic and reason. Indeed it (and lack thereof) is the reason for many things we engage in. Doing, living and embodying feminism, and engaging in building solidarities requires more than just what meets the eye. How do we engage in conversations of solidarity without speaking about our relationships with each other? The complex nature of solidarity building requires that we continuously question what others are giving up and working through to enter such spaces.
Is this not tenderness in action? If the work we do requires us to think about who grants access to people, what stories they have told, how they have told it, and whose stories are being told or left out, are we not being knowledgeable about how to care for others? The process of healing while simultaneously navigating spaces that reopen our wounds at the very least requires commitment, to trust others and ourselves. Practices of healing should be linked to practices of political resistance (Glass, 2007). bell hooks says that healing is “a healing into wholeness, moving away from the sense of self as splintered, and fractured and broken. Not a healing into perfection, but rather an acceptance that says we are, at our core, essentially whole even in the midst of our flaws and our woundedness”. The sites of injury, where the work we do takes place, the our ‘apple orchards’ of our lives can also be sites of possibility. As African women we continue to engage in activism even when it hurts us. We heal through the triggers and we are not alone in doing this. I acknowledge all the ways in which other marginalized bodies, those marked by society, are also resisting and actively cultivating new ways of utiliIssue 10, December 2014 | 27
zing love as a tool to organize. Indigenous/ Aboriginal/ Inuit women, those with disabilities, both visible and invisible, queer women, gender bending/fluid/non- conforming folk are engaged in creating new narratives within activist circles. I want to acknowledge femme identified woman who get read as straight, Jewish, bi-racial and Métis women who get read as white, and trans* woman who get
I want to acknowledge “ femme identified woman
who get read as straight, Jewish, bi-racial and Métis women who get read as white, and trans* woman who get read as alt and thus not seen as the women that they are” read as alt and thus not seen as the women that they are. The experience of Muslim women who get read as suspicious and any other marginalized communities rendered to the margins. I believe deeply that any woman that holds within her heart some form of grievance as a result of colonization, imperialism, White- Supremacist, able bodied, Christian, capitalist, hetero- normative, cis- gendered society should be acknowledged for the many ways in which we resist discourses that seek to erase us. I see you; I acknowledge you and I am grateful for your solidarity in the struggle. To all our allies who continue to check their assumptions, their privileges and walk alongside us, thank you. Collectively the very nature of our showing up in activists circles and remaining should be documented, archived and celebrated.
hen I consider all the ways in which patriarchy and even feminism has tried to write me out, spoken on my behalf, narrated my stories in ways that tested my vulnerability and shattered my trust, and yet I remain vigilant in being heard, present, seen, known. In all of these ways I am cultivating new forms of trust and vulnerability by continuing to engage. Reconciliation and forgiveness breaks through unspeakable ways of experiencing trauma. Choosing to stand with my sisters, with other wom28 | Issue 10, December 2014
en across the world in their struggle says, even in the midst of my internal turmoil, I see you, I acknowledge you and I am here for you. It says that I trust my being in your hands, to be vulnerable in our growing. My vulnerability and trust for you, as much as my intellectual capacity, my knowledge and passion allow me stand in solidarity with you. Care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect and trust, if bell hooks is on to something, that these things make up love, I will continue to pack them with me every time duty calls.
VARIATION ON A THEME OF STARDUST By Gayle Bell The skin of her clothes touched me Her perfume whispered in my ear of China She twirls around in my daydreams Jazz playing low Laugh faint as a kittens mewl The day switches to fast forward Sometimes I wonder why I spend The lonely night, dreaming of a song She who looked at me Licking her peppermint lips I blush as if my body Is in on a secret Left at the way station Of my daydreams Sometimes I wonder why I spend The lonely night, dreaming of a song Sunset turns in for the night In another place Urban cave-dwellers Begin their mating dance Jazza Mustaza is playing songs Of love under Luna Azul Even the dust is busy Conjuring Sometimes I wonder why I spend The lonely night, dreaming of a song
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EITHER FEMALE OR CRIMINAL By Khouloud Mahdhaoui
was born on June 3. My gender, which by then became my single identity, was born even before I took my first breath. I was already a female before my birth; I was already a female before having a name. I was a second-class human, I was a female. Then I existed. I became a little girl but didn’t adopt any sort of codes. Nobody cared, though. Pants or dress, truck or doll… I was at worst a smart and ambitious little girl. I yearned to become a male, but that was only a child’s dream, a female child’s dream. Then I started my periods, a revolutionary day in my personal development. I changed from girl to woman. I would no longer have the right to childhood dreams, I had to join my team, assimilate the role of a Tunisian woman and blend into the mass of those who venerate the almighty phallus. At the age of 14 I fell in love with a woman who, apparently, had so far kept her childhood dreams
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too. At that time I was unable to conceive my existence without the constant comparison to the opposite gender. I found love, but also frustration, hatred, jealousy, fear, loneliness… In short, I had become an adult.
IN THE COURSE OF YEARS AND LOVE I DENIED MY FEMININITY. I FOUGHT TO FULFIL MY CHILDHOOD DREAM, GRAVITATE TOWARDS MY OWN LEVELS. IN MY HEART I WAS A MALE. I HAD TO BECOME A MAN. The equation was simple. One needs to be a man in order to love women, a man that I was not, but perhaps I could become. I understood my manufacturing fault and got to the bottom of it. Only a few small adjustments were needed. I felt happy.
ut it did not take too long to get onto the other side of happiness:
“You were born a woman and will always be,” would chant in unison my family, social morality, laws and religion. “But how am I supposed to love women then?” “You will not love them, you will just love men.” “But how could I, they burp (like me), they fart (like me), have hair everywhere (but slightly less), grab between their legs 24/7 (I wanted to), and do not even have breasts (unlike me)!!” That day, I realized that, as a woman, I love women because of what makes them different. But above all, I was a woman. I immediately shaved my mustache and stopped grabbing my crotch. Awoken from my childhood dream, I saw myself falling into an adult nightmare, that of being a Tunisian woman who loves women, a criminal. A criminal of love and desire? Yes!
questioned everything that society had instilled in me, these poisoned gifts that alienated me, such as the comfort of the cultural heritage, the concept of family, virginity, patriarchy, women’s fragility and men’s strength, paradise, and even Sunday couscous. Certainly, I would gladly swap all that. I want love, sex, and to just have fun! So I’ve been a criminal for several years now. I have loved criminals, evolved in criminal spheres, befriended criminals, and finally found a criminal of my own; a criminal whose smile clears up all doubts and fears, whose eyes will be my final home. But, when I fall asleep at night in the arms of my beloved, I cannot help but think that a child born today, nearly thirty years and a revolution after, shall - like me - be either a female or a criminal. I then decided to be an activist.
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Out & About
SHOW & TELL
A CONCEPT STORE & CULTURAL HUB IN THE HEART OF OAKLAND
In the words of Alyah Baker, Co-Owner, transcribed by Q-zine, Photos by Mariam Armisen
he concept of Show & Tell was shaped by two visions – the main one was our commitment to be ethical and socially responsible with regards to how we select the brands to feature in the store and the second was to support the local economy and the great artists here in Oakland. So the underlining concept of the store is sustainability, social responsibility, independent designers that are not mass-produced. The social element of what we do is our focus on groups/communities that we feel are under-served, under-represented, including queer communities,
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people of colors (POC) communities, women, and non-profits organizations working with children because we feel that there is also a need to help children. Art has also been part of the concept from the beginning. Our approach to featuring art and artists is similar to how we curate merchandise for the store – to represent who we are and what we stand for. The great thing about Oakland is also that artists walk into the store to say “hey, I make art, are you interested in showcasing?” combined with our own connections in the local art scene – that how
we curate the art in the store. With regards to price range, we try to keep everything under $100 â€“ the medium price point is around $30. It was really important for us when we open to make sure that merchandises were accessible for the vast majority of people in Oakland.
The Details 1427 Broadway, Oakland, California Hours: Monday â€“ Tuesday, 12:00-6:00pm Wednesday-Friday: 12:00- 7:00pm Saturday: 1:00-6:00pm Tel: (+1) 510-463-4964 Website: showandtelloakland.com
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STORIES OF OUR LIVES (AND THE POLITICS OF TELLING A Q&A with The NEST & Q-zine OUR OWN STORIES) byStillsOurSpaceIsLove by NEST
: Tell us about The NEST, who the people behind it are and when was it formed.
The NEST is a community of artists and audiences interested in alternative thought, as well as music, film and theater production collective. It existed as a mental space long before we got physical premises in late 2012, (we turn 2 this year!) co-founded by George Gachara (the film’s executive producer) and Jim Chuchu (the film’s director). The core production team consists of 10 multidisciplinary creatives.
: It is refreshing to see that Kenyans produced this film – that it is about your own queer community with the financial backing of an African foundation, so many firsts… Tell us about the politics of Kenyans representing your own communities through this lens. Why now? Why this film?
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We made the film as part of a body of creative work to counter pervasive anti-gay sentiments that populate mainstream media. These narratives where LGBTI individuals are demonized, pathologised or reduced to initials representing “key populations” for NGO reports - are unacceptably dehumanizing. One common tactic is to present LGBTIQ issues as being “imported from the West”, yet everything in our lived experiences and everything that we learned in our documentation project refutes that idea. African – and with regard to Stories Of Our Lives, Kenyan LGBTIQ people originate, live, love and exist in the same spaces as all other Africans and Kenyans. We wanted to tell these stories of the queer experience in Kenya that are seldom heard and routinely erased. We were also aware that their collection and telling by Africans, for Africans, was essential. After archiving over 250 individual accounts from cities and towns all over Kenya, the
development of scripts, and the production of several shorts, we had a film. After a warmly successful world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, we presented the film for rating to formalise the process of screening in Kenya. The national Film Classification Board rated it “restricted”, effectively banning its public or private screening, sale or distribution in its current form within Kenyan borders. Since then, queries on the limits imposed on citizen freedom of expression and conscience have arisen, especially as the mandate of the Board is to “safeguard national norms and values”, but that of the Ministry for Sports, Culture and Arts is “to contribute to overall national development through promotion and exploitation of Kenya’s diverse culture for peaceful co-existence.” These two mandates appear to be at odds. Recently, the Department of Film Services started legal proceedings against us over the shooting of the film without a licence. In the meantime, we are working on other creative products from this project – we collected a whole lot of amazing stories, and the 5 shorts that make up the film are the retellings of just a few of them. We’re
incredibly grateful to OSIEA, who supported the original story collection and archiving, and UHAIEASHRI, who backed the production of the film, for believing in us and being such vital parts of this journey.
: How did you choose which stories to include in the film? How did that influence your framing of the stories? What was the editing process in
The stories that ended up in the feature were just amazingly, incredibly visual when they were told to us, so their development into film developed pretty organically. We shot each film when its script was ready, and we’d be in edits and post-production with some stories and in pre-production and shooting with others. Because the writing and shooting were parallel, we were influenced by current events relating to the queer experience as we went along - such as the developments in our neighboring countries Uganda and in Nigeria.
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: This issue of the magazine aims to talk about love as revolutionary practice – what does the term revolutionary love mean to you (if anything)?
That’s a beautiful theme for an issue! I guess for us revolutionary love is the get-up-off-your-ass-anddo-something kind of love. The love that makes it a little easier to change our minds about the things that are holding us back. The kind that makes us braver and stronger and pushes us closer to truth. The kind that makes us see that all people are equally valuable, underneath all the politics and noise.
: What do you want people to take away from seeing the film?
As the NEST Collective, we believe that Kenyans and Africans - like all human beings - have multiple, complex identities, histories and aspirations. We think it is important to represent these complexities to challenge the anti-intellectual, antiminority, hyper-religious, simplistic, puritanical, revisionist and conformist movements that are sweeping our country and the continent. So - for us - this film is about fighting openly for the right of Africans to have different opinions, 38 | Issue 10, December 2014
different worldviews, different identities and dreams - and for all these multiple identities to co-exist. We made this film because we believe strongly that the fight for the right to define one’s self, the right to be complex and different and unique, should be fought for proudly and openly.
: What’s next for The NEST?
We’re currently working on “Visa”, which is a research project exploring the complex relationships Africans have with the visa document, the things Africans are required to be, do and prove to obtain visas, and what different visas mean to different people. We’re super excited about that! We are also commissioning design work and casting talent for a fashion film. You can follow the Stories of Our Lives project online at www.storiesofourlives.org and learn more about The NEST at www.becauseartislife.org.
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THE VOICE ISWords THE by Alexis Teyie & Painting FIRST TO GO by Roseline Olang Odhiambo
er body reeked of hunger. I could smell it even when she laughed that precarious laugh of hers, like it was lurking behind her teeth and only fell out in place of a howl. No one understood what drew me to the odd stranger who simply appeared one day at our local hangout. Maybe it was that lovely gap between her teeth, or the delicate ankle I leaped off an Eldoret Express to track. Or her eyes then, how they would crouch closer to her cheeks, fanned by featherless wings like the skeletons of twin cranes. Maybe it was the way she folded those legs beneath her when she sat, how her body was always in knots. How I lived to unravel her. Some nights I wake up convinced I know: Bas! It’s her hair, I shout into the dark. It was this that first summoned me. It must have been. Those impossible curls begging to be wound round curious fingers, how they always sprung back no matter how many times I tugged. That there is such a certain thing in the world, hai. The little cabbage patch at the base of her skull, how she would quiver when I stroked it. The matted feel of it against my cheek during our borrowed mornings? Alhamdulillah. She wasn’t like the other women in those days. Had no patience for weaves and extensions and Darling braids and such. Besides, they gave me a rash. It’s funny, then, that we first met in a salon.
We’d take a Tusker if we could only because it made you look loaded and who knows? Do rich people things long enough…Anyways, I preferred the local brews. Made me feel all warm inside and I thought it comical, all of us sitting round some filthy jerry can, drinking this nasty stuff, coughing and laughing and thinking, life’s not so bad.
It was one of those vibanda with mabati roofs, and walls stooping as if sucked in by the combined heat of 6 red China blow dryers. Mama Jemo’s Hot Stylez, Salon and Kinyozi. Its skin was papered with campaign posters from the last election and on the insides, images of the various styles etched in charcoal. Some people thought it wasn’t all that hot but Mama Jemo was cool you see, and let some of us guys play pool next door even after curfew. Sometimes she slipped us the extra chang’aa from her side hustle, and we were glad for any free alcohol.
Maybe that’s why I hung out there so much, even after we were no longer in the same classes. Many of them quit; we all have our places, our reasons. The boys wanted to get some money rolling in, afford some Tusker I guess. The girls, they were rolled in alright, got pregnant, the usual story (too much free Tusker I guess). I sat there, smoking anything I could bum off someone, chilling. I listened to all their stories, nodded, eh-hhed when appropriate, held their stuff for them when I was sure the cops had received some dough for chai. It all made me
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kachumbari that came with it. I squatted in the small space, pressed against the washbasin, nose filled with the smell of cooking hair. Though I itched to get closer, I only watched surreptitiously as she ate: spear chip, examine, shake off excess oil, chew, swallow, repeat. Are you going to ask me my name ama you feed all the strangers in this entire slum? Just the ones who think hair classification systems beat binomial nomenclature. She laughed. Like really laughed. Teeth, eyelashes, nostrils and everything. feel full, you know? There was a lot of life outside the butchery and Mama Jemo’s place. I mean I got invited to lots of harambees and such, raise funds for a wedding, graduation, naming, new house etc. Mostly funerals though. Anyhow, that day I scraped together a few shillings for some lunch and half a cigarette. Figured I’d say hello to the tailor outside Mama Jemo’s salon. Heard her other kid got mowed down on some highway. I wasn’t too surprised she was back so fast after sowing Boi in the ground; people have to eat eh. Still, few things are as soothing as that quiet humming Singers make, spitting out clothing from bits of loose fabric. Also, I guess I liked to watch the women in the salon trying to figure out their hair numbers from the weirdly detailed list on the back of some calendar from ‘91. Then I saw her. Loveliest dhira I’d ever seen on a woman, this willowy thing nearly drowning in batik fabric-- face all eye, eye all dark sparkle. She was baaaaad, jo. The first thing she said to me when I hesitated at the salon’s opening--even though I’d hung out there since I turned 12-- was, Better than Linnaeus’ shit si ndio? Ati what? Bring those chips inside we share.
I looked at her braced between the hair dresser’s thighs, on one of those three-legged stools, neck unnaturally bent as her hair was tamed into some acceptable configuration. I could barely breathe looking at a deep cut behind her ear, like an otherworldly contraption so she could hear human frequencies and shit. I counted the number of gold bangles on her wrists, the number of times she clenched and unclenched her hands. In all accounts of traumatic events, like the 1998 bomb blast, people always talk about the littlest of things: what colour underwear they had on that day, what song was playing in the matatu, how much they paid for breakfast etc.: No underwear. Not in a matatu but in the bar across from the salon, Boomba Train, E-sir. 30 bob for the chips, 20 for the 4 boiled eggs I gave the tailor, 50 cents for half a cigarette. How to say to a woman whose name I didn’t know, you’re a winding track, and I’m a willing train wreck? How to say, me, this woman here, now she will follow you anywhere?--and that’s the only line I’ll ever feed anyone. Before I could even part my lips, Mama Chips popped her head in, We! Unataka sausage? Ni nyama ya ng’ombe haki. Wallahi, me those donkeys I leave for the drunkards next door. Ehe. So…? For your warria friend? I don’t have miraa lakini… I turn at the way she says “friend”, Ati?
stared, confused, until I remembered the greasy chips sweating away in newspaper wrapping and heating up my palms. Wordlessly, I walked forward and handed her a toothpick and the Issue 10, December 2014 | 41
FOR KIRABO AND GRACE Poem by Kampire Bahana & Photo by Darlyne Komukama
For Kirabo and Grace Farbeit from me To foresee A change in the windâ€™s direction Or a twinkle in the eye of an unknowable God Love will be our shelter, our mabati They say people make plans And God laughs But I will love you like a sigiri in the rainy season Like a hot cup of tea Like the ancient Muvule tree Under which my grandfather First promised my kaaka That he would love her eternally. Rivers that roared before our parentâ€™s time Are now dammed to provide electricity Bulbs replace hurricane lamps And children grow up to forget their own tongues We live life with no guarantee. Few people in this world Can hold in their hands Something as certain and warm as the sun Few people, my love, can look at their lives And dream of being as lucky. 1 2
Iron sheet roof Charcoal stove
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FEEL THE IMAGE A Q&A with Chloé aka GPhOZ, Photographer and Musician by Kalfou Danjé KALFOU DANJÉ: WHAT BROUGHT YOU INTO PHOTOGRAPHY? GPhOZ: I think I was always drawn to images. Through the scenes of daily lives, my eyes are continually seeking details that usually go unnoticed to others but that fascinate me. The subtle gesture of a person, the brightness of a light, a look, the shape of a body, etc. But often my drive to capture all these images is prevented by a person’s right to his/her image. KD: IS YOUR CAMERA YOUR EVERYDAY COMPANION OR DO YOU PURPOSEFULLY GO OUT TO TAKE PHOTOS? GPhOZ: It’s rare that I take pictures of live subjects. When this is the case, there is not necessarily a
particular link. The relationship that might be noticeable to the trained eye is perceptible by taking the time to feel the image. That said, I still remain the guardian of the secrets those images hold. I remember every moment, every occasion, look and emotions that I feel through every shot. This is a visual diary. KD: IS THERE A SPECIAL CONNECTION THAT LINKS YOU TO YOUR SUBJECTS? GPhOZ: Most of the images I captured so far are from Martinique; from the time I was still living there. I was inspired there ... I have trouble with the light here (France). I have less time and it’s true that my dream would be to capture everything that catches my eye but here the law says that a person has the right to his/her images - and here it’s the body that
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I want photograph, unexpectedly – of course this is not legally possible. But I’m not giving up. KD: WHAT IS THE MEANING BEHIND THE USE OF CLOSE-UPS IN YOUR WORK? GPhOZ: I didn’t even pay attention to the fact that I was taking close-ups until you mentioned it (laughs)! I do not know what to say. Probably to delicately frame the image? To influence viewers to arrive at what I was seeing? In fact, the close-ups show how my mind is trying to zoom in on a specific detail. KD: CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT SOME OF THE SELECTED PHOTOS? GPhOZ: O580: This picture is from a series of self-portraits playing a mirror game ... The inspiration came when I say my reflection in a mirror, with my camera in my hands. I sized it as an opportunity to express schizophrenia, a reality I had to subject myself to when I was living with my parents, the struggles I was experiencing. 1322: I should take this hand.
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LOVE HAS NO GENDER
Words by Rania Bennaceur & Photo by Oumeyma Miladi
he first time you discover that hands are made to feel and be felt is the first time you fall in love. When your whole existence gets disturbed by a touch, when your whole body shivers when meeting that particular touch, when all your future memories are built on a particular hand meeting yours, you know that that is Love. Regardless of skin color, regardless of music taste and all the jam we have on mind about the person we might get along with, and regardless of the gender, the spoken regards and looks reveals it all . As a girl , I first met this feeling when touching another girlâ€™s hands , when smelling her hair and perfume , when her imperfect details looked like perfection to me. And at that moment all I could think about is that all of this felt normal and comfortable, as comfortable and happy as any lovers could seem, as serene as a summer breeze. Feeling this natural with a girl made me believe that , after all , Love has no gender. Iâ€™ve never thought it would happen until it happened , and when it happened it rose in me a sense of responsibility and awareness that human beings should never be condemned to feel whatever feeling they get
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to experience as long as it is embellished with a sense of freedom , responsibility and honesty. Therefore, you never get to feel ashamed when experiencing a different relation or kind of love different from the common. And once you get to feel it , you cannot pretend not having felt it and start to defend yourself and your right for more freedom . Love has always been linked to freedom, and freedom is a responsible fight for rights . But how do we fight for our rights ? Writing about it , Dancing it, Filming it, Singing it, Negotiating it, Meeting, Exchanging information, Demonstrating, Voicing it in a conformist milieu, Informing and Letting people know who you really are, are all different kinds or resistance against patriarchy, against misogyny, against censorship and different kinds of religious oppression and governmental and social hegemony. Thus, Love is a natural link that needs to be defended for its almightiness and glory, for it is true and genuine, for it is the supreme feeling that could link two humans regardless of their gender. Love, therefore, has no gender .
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LOVE ON THE STREETS By Jessica Horn
“Walls are the publishers of the poor”- Eduardo Galeano
y inclination, by choice of vocation as a transitional feminist activist, or maybe even just by chance I have ended up a traveller. Life has blessed me with the chance to visit 48 countries so far, and to journey further into the lives, landscapes and geographies of our collective humanity.
When we started the OurSpaceisLove blog I began to take photographs of expressions of love on the streets as I moved through the world, in activist spaces and on the side of the road. When you train your eyes to focus on one thing you realise it is everywhere. That is certainly true for love. People express love wherever they find a place to inscribe their wish, desire and joy in being part of an ‘us’. The photographs here are from Tunis, Beirut, London, Nairobi, Istanbul, Fort Portal, Friesland and Paris. One love.
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REFLECTIONS: I STILL REMEMBER… By Stéphane Ségara
still remember: I still have many memories of us, of our little family. But very few moments of love remain within, moments of you and me sharing such family-like caring and loving each other before death would make us lose our reason. As soon as I delve into those memories from when I was about 10, it comes to be so hard to describe our family relationship. 52 | Issue 10, December 2014
I still remember: we were like that kind of local nuclear family rooted in traditional principles and values. The kind that revolve around birthright, absolute obedience to parents - and, of course, good grades at school! I still remember: we didn’t use to have many moments of interaction where we could share such
love between parents and children. We were not allowed to express our feelings. By tacit agreement, we should not make them public. I still remember: mom, who was very shy and quite sensitive, tried to profess her love to us, but it was not enough. She had her own way of loving that we often did not understand and found too distant. Through the illness that that would later take her away, I struggled to express my feelings of grief. I pretended to be indifferent and not worried about her situation but only because I was afraid that my feelings would be harshly suppressed. At times, when mom had her fainting spells, I would withdraw behind the house and just cry on my own – then I would go back in pretending I was all smiles again and stop any sort of feeling from showing through. I still remember: dad was strict; he was tough in his actions. He would not tolerate any deviating
behaviour. We all ended up being distant from him and would merely engage with him to show him our school grades. His attitude died down especially when mom became more and more sick and eventually passed away. But in my opinion, by that time it was already too late for us, hadn’t had enough time to build up « our own kind of love ». I still remember: during mom’s illness, I didn’t use to spend much time with her in order to avoid feeling pity for her all the time. One day, while she was all alone lying on the couch in the living room, she asked me to come and join her and to tell her some jokes (that was, by the way, something I really enjoyed doing with my friends). My mom knew me very well… but I felt so shy and pitied her as I watched her getting thinner and weaker. At one point I couldn’t even say a word, so I stayed there and simply stared at her. That was our last private moment before she died a few weeks later.
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still remember: mom passed away and it was dad who told me. He would strongly condemn me when tears filled my eyes, because no one was supposed to see me cry. I had to be an example of bravery for my sister. I never did cry publicly, nor did I show my pain in public even though all eyes were on me on the day of mom’s funeral. It was as if everyone was expecting to see those tears rolling down my face. I still remember... I still remember: the day we celebrated the first anniversary of mom’s death, dad had a fit and went completely out of his mind. He would never recover and died one week after. Looking back, I now realise how much he was affected by mom’s death and had never made it through his own period of grieving. He let alcohol destroy him. He never showed what his feelings and never looked sad. He was “an example of bravery”. I still remember: following such custom of masking our feelings, I didn’t cry at my dad’s funeral either. No one stopped me from doing so, but I stopped myself from giving vent to my emotions. He passed away when I was 12.
still remember: even though we spent so little time together, I can’t think of a single ‘deep feeling’ that was shown in the heart of our family. I can’t even remember the fact that we loved one another even though I felt we did. I still remember: still today it’s hard for me to share my feelings. I feel ashamed for having feelings. I even feel ashamed of loving. It’s true that I’ve had the time to fix many things in me, but when it comes to feelings, this is something learnt at such an early age which follows us throughout our life. There’s no doubt. With my sister there’s really nothing between us that would make us bottle up our feelings, but we are not that brave, we were just not taught such beautiful manners. I have then come to understand that loving is one thing, and expressing our love is something completely different…
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IT’S A GIRL
can’t figure out where to begin… but I guess it’s best that I start with my earliest memories of being attracted to a girl. I come from an average conservative Tunisian family. My mother and sister are veiled and my brother is a religious man. Until that first shiver I felt when my high school sweetheart held my waist, I had never considered that I could be a lesbian. No-one had ever talked to me about it. I started dating when I was 13 or 14, not because I felt particularly attracted to someone but because all my friends were coupling up and I thought it was about time I followed suit. That went on for a couple of years. I have no special memory of it, nor of the boys I was with, except the recollection of my first kiss. Disappointed would be an understatement. I was sick to my stomach, and almost threw up on the way home. Things got a little better after that first incident, but intimacy (with the boys I was with) never seemed particularly pleasurable for me. My body just wouldn’t respond. Now that I think about it, it seems strange to me how that did not bother me. But at the
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Words by A from Chouf & Photo by Oumeyma Miladi
time it didn’t. I had an unstable home and I was completely absorbed by my studies so I never questioned it… As I said, that went on for years… My second year in high school is when it all changed. That was when I finally understood what my body knew all along. That year I started noticing a group of girls. Two of them defied my every conception of what a girl should look like. They were boyish and untidy but I found one of them to be extremely attractive. When I asked my friends about them, they told me they were a group of lesbians. The word didn’t ring any bells. I had only heard it vaguely before and always as something dirty and sinful. In my family, the word was never uttered. In my friends circle at the time (who were almost as conservative as my family), it was rarely brought up, and if so, like any other taboo, it was vaguely talked about in an atmosphere of fearful guilt. I was almost 16 at the time. But I had lived all my previous years in a shell. That made me prude and unadventurous. Anyway, back to her... For the purpose of protecting her identity, I’ll call her Sara (although that is not
her real name). I know it sounds so typical, but from the moment I saw her, that girl wouldn’t leave my mind. At first I couldn’t even admit it to myself. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I helplessly wanted to get close to her… Yet I was scared, and she seemed so unapproachable. I started listening to music that girls sang about girls. I started watching movies about girls who loved girls and suffered for it and I cried my eyes out each time. I was literally stepping into a new world but I was making the journey alone. No-one else knew about it. I had no-one I could talk to about it. But with time, I grew a bit more courageous. I looked at her and smiled! I know it but at the time it was a huge step for me. And
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she smiled back. She came up to me one day and started a conversation. Before that moment I have never felt a confusion so intense. I must have sounded like an idiot! But she talked to me again.. and again.. and I grew more comfortable and more confident, and we grew closer. Those were some of the happiest days of my life. But also some of the most difficult. I laughed like a child when we were together. My heart almost leaped from my chest when she said something sweet to me. It was also when I started experiencing the famous “sexual desire” I had always heard about but never felt towards any of my ex-boyfriends. She helped me bloom like a flower. Now that I look back, I can even say she introduced me to myself. She was also the one to give me the courage to explore the wants and needs of my body. When she kissed me for the first time, I felt butterflies in places I’ve never felt before. And when we made love for the first time (clumsy and teenage-like as it was) I felt like I was floating on a cloud.
othing ever felt like being in her arms. She was my first love… and as the rumors around me started spreading and I lost most of my conservative friends (nothing dramatic. They just stopped asking me to spend time with them and I got the hint) she became my world. That’s when the double life I’m still leading started. At home, I was still the good daughter, the good sister. No-one suspected anything. And to keep that up, lying to my mom had to become a second nature to me. My mother is a traditional housewife in her fifties who got a very modest education, got married early, and has spent all of her life worshipping Allah. Knowing what had become of her daughter would shatter her world. And this is not an exaggeration. Through all these years, the thought of her finding out was one of my worst fears. I am 22 now, and it still scares me. As for my love story, problems started in my final year of high school just as I was getting ready for my baccalaureate exam. It was such a difficult year. I cried myself to sleep almost every night. When we fought and broke up, I was completely alone. Most of my new friends were originally hers and so they sided with her although I was the one to get my heart broken. In my despair, I just wanted to finish the year and move out of my hometown. And I did.
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moved to the capital. My first year in college was nothing like I expected. I still had difficulty making friends and was afraid of opening up to them when I did. Trusting people gets more and more difficult the older one gets. Maybe it was because I had just moved to a place where I knew no-one or because I had just gotten my heart broken by the only person I had ever loved or maybe I was getting used to my loneliness… The thing is, I got depressed that year. I had suicidal thoughts and barely managed to fight my way through them. Hope that things might get better was what got me through. I started a blog that summer. That helped me make new LGBT friends abroad who helped me through my depression. I also managed to go back to dating but I didn’t meet anyone really special. My second year in college I met the girl who would become, and still is, my best friend. Her nickname is RayRay. She’s the first close friend I ever came out to. We were having a talk, and the topic of homoerotic love came up. Her laid-back and accepting attitude encouraged me to take a step forward. I told her and my other friend, who also showed a similar attitude, that I was bi-curious (I was too scared to say I was a lesbian) and they both took it well. It felt so good to finally start talking about that deeply hidden part of me but I was still scared that they might start treating me differently. The next time I had a date with a girl, I told them about it. Ray-Ray was so excited for me and even helped me get ready for it! It made my day. I had never felt so accepted before. When I came back from my date that day I told her the truth (that I was a lesbian) and she smiled and said it was okay and that she loves me and will always be there for me. She actually said those exact words (we’re both English Majors)! Tears of joy streamed down my face as I hugged her for what seemed an eternity. Her support meant the world to me especially after everything I’ve been through, and that is why she’ll always hold a special place in my heart.
he following year, we made new friends. Together with 3 other girls, we became a close group who threw rousing (and prohibited) parties at our dormitory with enough alcohol to knock out half a dozen men! One night, we had all drunk a bit and were talking about ‘love, sex and magic’ (an aside, Ciara looked like a Goddess in that music video!) when I said I was spending the weekend with someone, one of the
girls cried out “just don’t forget a condom, okay?” and Ray-Ray (tipsy as she was) said “She won’t be needing one” So the girls started throwing around guesses as to why not. “He’s sterile!” one of them yelled out giggling. “She’s sterile!” the other teased. “Come on tell us!” and that’s when it happened. “It’s a girl!” Meriam cried out and they all went dead silent. When I said yes, wild cheers almost deafened me. I had never imagined that the news of my sexual orientation would get a group of girls jumping around with excitement. Now I always get this goofy grin on my face whenever I remember it. One of the girls actually jumped on me screaming “You bitch! Why didn’t you tell us before?” It was a happy night feel blessed to have met them. I truly am. for me! One of the happiest so far! I thought it Even though my love life hasn’t picked would get awkward after that, but no. It’s been up as I thought it would by this time, more than a year and they’ve even met some their friendship has helped me through of the girls I went out with and they’ve always my breakups and the depression that usually been so loving and follows. They’re always ready with a movie supportive. and a jar of Nutella waiting! I don’t know what would have become of me without them. They’re my anchor. When the darkness of living in the shadows becomes too stifling and the burden of secrecy becomes too heavy for a young girl like me, they are the ones who manage to guide me out of it. I can never forget their goodness to me, and I could not possibly be anymore grateful.
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PORTRAITS OF QUEER Words by Q-zine & photos NIGERIANS by Andrew Esiebo 60 | Issue 10, December 2014
This is an on-going portraits series of resilient Africans gays living despite the strong opposition by African cultures. The series tends to challenge the stereotypical representation of LGBT in African cultures. As for many, being gay is considered to be an abnormal, to bewitch or abomination.
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The series also explore their living spaces, in an attempt toinvestigate their social identities and what the spaces reflect. Does their spaces reflect fear, double identities, struggle, freedom or hope?
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The project hopes to give giving a better understanding of their lives and create a debate for the rights and future them in African society.
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LOVE AGAINST HOMOPHOBIA
Poem by Musa Okwonga & Photo by Abbie Lucas of Creation Company
To some people My love is somewhat alien; When he comes up, they start subject-changing, and In some states he’s seen as some contagion In those zones, he stays subterranean; Some love my love; they run parades for him: Liberal citizens lead the way for him: But the same time as some countries are embracing him, Whole faiths and nations seem ashamed of him: They’ve tried banning him, God-damning him, Toe-tagging him, Praying that he stayed in the cabinet, But my love kicked in the panelling, and ran for it He’s my love! Can’t be trapping him in labyrinths! Maverick, my love is; he thwarts challenges; The cleverest geneticists can’t fathom him, Priests can’t defeat him with venomous rhetoric; They’d better quit; my love’s too competitive: He’s still here, despite the Taliban, the Vatican, And rap, ragga in their anger and arrogance, Who call on my love with lit matches and paraffin Despite the fistfights and midnight batterings My love’s still here and fiercely battling, Because my love comes through anything; My love comes through anything.
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Words & Paintings by Jessica Patricia Kichoncho Karuhanga A I pulled kinks, your smallest spirals, from the brink of my tongue Between the Fingers as bells Swinging scents of black Recognized by black B I often pull down lids to the dust of the ground Because our lives never mattered. But, next time Iâ€™ll try to return your gaze 74 | Issue 10, December 2014
With longing To weave through reeds lash to lash as though they were lily pads C To all those who loved Ruby Dee, You see the water setting in the eavestrough. You inquire on commission. The fear behind your inquiry is not as heavy as my silence. The well is now dry. We move on. There are only hints of incense in the cold. The carpet burn on my knees could file bones. I recall a ceiling. There
was waving light on moist pavement. I was minding the ditch. You were welcoming. You were talking softly from a lowered window. The window rolls on a tongue. The rubber rolls on moist pavement. You were stalking me, warmly, home. You, slowing down, said, “Hello there. Don’t you remember me? We met before.” I did not remember this first meeting but the lie that answered “Yes” easily took form. I was minding the ditch when I fell into “Yes”. I was in your car. I was in your home. I was on a bed. I was in your car. You drove me home.
n each instance I am out of a body. I disappear. I am seeking to be here with a hope that you might see me. I am desperate with a hope that your trembling is more than a reflex or a collapse after coming. I could be anything. You are dense. You stare through images of flesh. I can feel the digging of your feet in deserts. Later, I am in the park, on a bench waiting, I see you with your family kicking a rolling ball. Your beloved, she, will always look at me severely. In her eyes I am the sting of drops. The frustration is the same.
am shitting out your poison. Impressions of your thumbs on my lower back. I dream you are a bee. I move to tell the doctor but even my breath is silent. There are only hints of incense in the cold. The triggers are waves chasing one another. When she kisses me, the truths that answer “Yes” take form but I freeze. The triggers are like echoes of mythic wars when father speaks in tongues as midnight runs down the waterfall curtains of his room. I hear this through the base creaks of closed doors. The chattering bleeds through mouth-guards. To my (one day) beloved, Our bodies are folding in and around each other. In the love making and embraces we will always be boarders to each other. But, I will still listen to the ripples of your tossed stones. Rest your ear on my back. In fleeting brushes blood shall transfer between you and I. My lines transitioning into your lines.
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UNDERGROUND CASABLANCA Words & Photos by Joseph Despite unexpected last-minute venue changes, Moroccan young ‘artivists’ celebrated the third anniversary of the Arab Spring uprisings in a victorious, special edition of the ‘Festival de Resistances et Alternatives’ (FRA) last February in Casablanca. It had been one year after the outbreak of social uprising in most major cities of morocco, in 2011. A bunch of young activists in their early twenties were arranging chairs on a chess-tiled floor for the first event of the festival. A friend was setting up a photo exhibition on previous year’s protests - they had to try dozens of printing houses until they found one who agreed to print the pictures. That night i got home feeling moved. We danced as if it was our first chance to dance freely, shaking our heads to souad massi’s best hits as zaghrouta ululations and an intrepid clapping sounded all around.’
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population are eager to create spaces where they can share their ideas, exhibit their pieces of arts and relate to other people with common interests and mindsets.
ollowing two successful previous
From February 20 to 23 2014, the third edition of the festival of alternative arts and culture was held in Morrocco. Originally planned to be held in one of Casablanca’s most emblematic sites, an ancient building complex formerly used as a slaughtering house that arts and cultural associations have been trying to turn into a hub for independent artists, a crossroads of resistance movements and a venue for alternative events. In Morocco, arts entertainment relies heavily on state-sponsored mainstream culture. As such, young ‘artivists’ and the overall youth
festivals, this event welcomed a number of visitors and participants and offered varying cultural activities such as film screenings, theatre workshops, political debates and concerts. The organizers of the FRA wanted to build a citadel over the span of the festival – an installation modeled on the idea of the ‘traditional
the hope of bringing the aban“Indoned building back to life, the citadel was designed with a school, a hospital, a parliament, a spiritual space, a police station and a street market.
city’ and comprising all elements that make up the everyday lives of their citizens. In the hope of bringing the abandoned building back to life, the
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citadel was designed with a school, a hospital, a parliament, a spiritual space, a police station and a street market. All of these elements would create the opportunity for participants to collaborate in the building of a democratic, ideal society and look critically and creatively at the current social challenges and institutional practices.
However, this idea quickly faded when, one week prior to the festival, the organizers received a letter from the authorities forbidding the event unless official authorization was granted. ‘One day before the festival would start, after one week we spent fighting, we knew that we would not have permission, so we moved on to our plan B, which was to develop the program in different places with the help of several organizations. In the end, we managed to carry on with our program despite threats from the Ministry of the Interior,’ explained a 22-year-old member of the organizing committee of the festival who is also a stage designer. The idea of organizing an ‘alternative festival’ came from social activists’ desire to celebrate the February 2011 uprisings when thousands of Moroccans rallied in the streets to demand social change. This was how the ‘February 20 movement’ was born. Two years after this movement was born, young activists have teamed up and formed cultural and artistic groups with the shared objective of promoting freedom of expression and fundamental human rights. The feminist collective Woman Choufouch, the Moroccan Union of Students for a Change in the Education System, the independent filmmaking group Guerrilla Cinema, Vegetarian Moroccans, as well as other independent artivists took part in this 4-day cultural arts festival that sought to be as ambitious and diverse as possible in its offerings. Despite a last-minute venue change and several budget-related challenges, 78 | Issue 10, December 2014
‘all the activities happened as planned without any censorship.’ ‘The FRA’s audience is made up of mostly young people. I think the number of visitors is becoming bigger and bigger after each festival. More than 200 people attended the festival this year, which was a new experience for us.’ The festival’s program featured workshops on theatre of the oppressed, independent radio broadcasting, debates on other revolutionary movements abroad and religious identity, democracy games, concerts, alternative lessons on history, economy and communication, screening of feature films such as ‘The Land Between’ by Australian David Fedele, a documentary which looks into the hidden lives of sub-Saharan migrants in the mountains of northern
Morocco. A selection of short movies were screened for the duration of the festival .
his year was by far the most diverse festival with independent contributors from Germany, Palestine, Spain, France and Australia who crossed borders to share their artistry and experience. A special discussion was led by LGBT members that dealt with sexual and reproductive health as well as gender issues in general. ‘We had results in terms of the program being rich and varied. Also the participation of people increased, which
was a proof that people need a place to meet, share and express themselves’. ‘All of the activities were successful, but what really impressed me was that after the two previous festivals we finally managed to organize a real concert, I mean, with a proper stage and real lighting!’ Aside from this passionate, young stage designer, many others - film editors, graphic designers, cultural managers or musicians – did their bit to make this event a success, which proves that there is ‘a new Morocco’ marching to the beat of its own drums!
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Words by Siph
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& Photos hiwe Nkosi
was involved in documenting sex workers in relation to how the industry is influenced by the society we live in. I built relationships with several of the women who work as sex workers and came to realize, as with all of us, that they also have dreams and aspirations. Whatever circumstances have led these women to practice sex work, criminalization, stigmatization, and violence are problem the sex workers face in their daily lives. Their work can be very dangerous and many women have to protect themselves from clients and even the police. (Left Image) Waiting is the part of the game, Melissa from Ghana hoping to make enough money on the weekend. Mid-week business is slow. Issue 10, December 2014 | 81
57 Bok street Joubert park is the place to be when you are looking for some kinkiness.
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Come and Get it Big Boy! Fikzo comes to Joburg seeking for a livelihood to feed for her young children. “A girl has got to do what a girl has got to do, iJob iJob s’bali”, she says. Issue 10, December 2014 | 83
“It’s been a long night... excite me Big Boy,” Tamara getting a client in downtown Johannesburg.
Cover your face!: Crystal and Fikzo in preparation for a strip show doing what is considered taboo, all hell will brake loose if their families finds out what, they get up to at work. 84 | Issue 10, December 2014
Mpho and Funeka havenâ€™t made money during the day, they have been out running errands buying a few things, the night is still young they are waiting to make money to pay for their accommodation for the night.
On the fast lane: Down to business! Where sleep is a cousin of death. Get out of my way! Brenda rushing for a client before some one else gets to him first. She has to make enough money for her next hairdo and to send money home to Mozambique. Issue 10, December 2014 | 85
A deal has been struck going up to the room to indulge into some happiness.
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Sexy Blues: Crystal* from Harare came to the land of opportunities aroused with excitement and hopes for a better life. Jozi is a harsh concrete juggle especially for ladies in sex trade operations. Life goes on for Crystal who prepares for a strip tease competition in downtown Joburg.
Naomi from Malawi is doing whatever it takes to get clients at her Hotel in order to send some money home. Her parents think she is doing well in South Africa. Issue 10, December 2014 | 87
GIVING UP ON LOVE By Afifa Aza
“Love gives naught but itself and takes naught from itself. Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For Love is sufficient unto love....
hen you love you should not say, “God is in my heart”, but rather, “I am in the heart of God.” And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself. But if you love and most needs have desires, let these be your desires...” Khalil Gibran One of the most painful times in my life was when the relationship with my partner from high school ended. It was miserable. I lost weight. There is nothing I could have done to make them stay. I 88 | Issue 10, December 2014
experienced a period of disillusioned experiments. My desire was to rekindle some kind of love wherever there was attraction. For the most part it went badly. A number of sexual encounters, probably the most adventurous of my 20 something years. Thinking about this makes me think about my parents. Their story of love intrigues me. My parents have been husband and wife living in the same house before I knew myself. I am so horrible with details so I couldn’t tell you how many years that is. My father is a man of little excitement and simple routine. He left for work by 7:00 and was home by
5:00. Monday to Friday. On Saturdays we went to church and Sundays he would sleep, read the Gleaner and eat Sunday dinner. This is what I remember most about my father he would always come home. He would open the door and say “Good evening” and if mummy was at the table she would say “Good evening” back. We were supposed to say “Good evening” too. My grandmother would say loud loud “Evening Missa Harris”. Shortly after he came out of his work clothes he would go to the back room to iron his clothes for the next work day. By the time he was finished he would have a shower and then it would be 7:00pm time for the nightly news. It was predictable, it made me feel safe. I felt like he would always protect us because he was always there. He loved us in an unexciting routine way. My father is a strange man. He isn’t romantic (at least not to my knowledge) and seeing him and my mother together makes you wonder how she keeps loving him or why she stays with him. It makes me think that she must really love him. I remember telling my sister once that the reason I was in love with my second partner was because they reminded me of daddy. I respected the way he
have had several intense experiences with love. I think perhaps one of the things I fear the most about being in love is the day my partner says, “This isn’t working out”. So I try my best to be a good partner, hoping it will always be worth it and it will always work out. Recently I came to understand that people were not the only things you could fall in love with. About three years ago I had started to pursue a dream of mine called the SO((U))L HQ. It started with two ideas. One, the idea that ‘the product is the place’ and second, a deep desire to recreate the feeling of a place in Jamaica that was as stimulating friendly and fun as the artistic/creative scene I had experienced in London when I’d visited several years before. I imagined the SO((U))L HQ as a place that I wanted to ‘be’ in, and where I wanted people to ‘be’ with me. It was Georgia who first came up with the name ‘Sounds of Life’ (my original dj’ing gig), and I decided to call it SO((U))L. The HQ was the place that Georgia and I worked together building ideas Issue 10, December 2014 | 89
for and about our community. The HQ was the place where I felt passion, purpose, honesty and fatigue. I was in love with that place, well the thing, the idea, and the work. I loved that place with all the love I had, and I opened it up to others with love.
t wasn’t really until two months ago when Georgia and I were struggling to pay rent for the HQ and I was preparing to have a much-dreaded conversation with my landlord about having to give up the HQ that I realized how much I loved it.. The thought of losing the HQ, the pains I felt in my chest and in my head made me realize that I was deeply in love with the HQ. That was the moment that I forced myself out of bed and went online to create a crowdfunding campaign to keep the HQ and our other space (Di Institute for Social Leadership-ISL) open. I realized then that my love for these spaces meant I would do anything to keel them alive. I think of these spaces as my life’s work and I realize now that you have to love your work. Not just ‘love as work’ but ‘love as more.’ You have to love what it is you believe in. Was Audre Lorde in love? Was Walter Rodney in love? Was Marcus Garvey in love? zI am 33 years old. When you are 33 and believe in Audre Lorde and Walter Rodney and Marcus
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Garvey (and their love), and have enough education to understand ‘Globalization,’ ‘Dependency Theory,’ ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa,’ ‘World Systems Theory’; you often ask about the past, the time before you were born when these people who thought these things, and believed these things about the world and really wanted to make it different - lived. I find myself often puzzled by their absence in the present. I always look to them to help me put the pieces together, to figure out the here and now. There are maybe two questions I always find myself wanting to ask: ‘Why?’ and ‘What happened?’ I would want to ask them if they had ever given up on love. Did they ever stop loving their work? I believe that ‘to love’ is to never give up on love….never give up on people, never give up on all the things that can make life beautiful even when times change. I am writing this as I am about to lose something I love. I have lost many things that I have loved. I still can’t find the ring I bought from the Zimbabwean artist at Camden Market in London. What I am about to lose, my space, is something very important to me. Last week I asked my friends on Facebook if we knew how many times Marcus Garvey might have cried? I am losing something that I love but I am not giving up on love.
Words by Mariane Amara & Photo by Mariam Armisen
Is “to love and be loved” a banal statement? Not at all. It’s first the unconscious dream of any child, then the ambition of any adult (with a beating heart, a desiring soul and a active body). It’s my own dream and ambition towards which my efforts move and, unfortunately, my concerns too. It’s a desire born out of the junction of differences, two desiring bodies that seek and find each other, two lives allied to one destiny. In my case, that’s not as simple as it sounds. For me, love is a militant act, a cry that targets the “average” people, since I’m a woman who loves women.
a guy”; I am neither a “mvoye “ nor a “koujeu.” I thus should fit somewhere that gives my life a sense and be assigned a label that suffocates me. Everyone would like my life to be all either white or black, because ambiguity is disruptive. Maybe they are right, and wrong at the same time, because I’m a girl AND I like girls.
We live in difficult times, hit by economic crises and disorientation. Howls of hungry hyenas against a minority herd thirsty to exist. Our traditional cultures failed, unable to meet our deepest aspirations. The (European) modern way of life, sought but not granted yet, leaves us in this broad and vague margin between the two; between two worlds that I love and I cannot reach, between two lives that I have to take to survive. In the eyes of my family, I’m an indecisive, imprecise girl - not fixed-up yet. To my friends in the gay community, I wear long hair but I make decisions, I dress “like a girl” and behave “like
Love in time of persecution means going beyond oneself, taking the risk to be disturbing, committing to a struggle for a share in the pie of happiness. It’s taking the risk of harming those who are dear to me because they do not understand me – my father, my mother, my brothers and my friends… quietly homophobes. All those who think, “Homosexuality, still, is no good...”. They say they love me, but hate who I am. They say they love me, but they wage a war against me, because I must change and become “normal”. In the name of “friendship”, they say: “why don’t you even have a baby? “. As for me, I want them to be there when I need them and no longer see me as an object needing repairing. To love my life means to accept the risk of hurting and disappointing those that I love, because I am a woman who loves women.
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y struggle is a bitter struggle to be myself. To jut out from the flow of dogmas and beliefs those beset me and force me to vanish in order to become the right girl. Dogmas and beliefs that compel me to deny myself, to become a good girl, for the Christian church. My struggle is to love beyond beliefs, beyond the social ego that oppresses me, to love as my own self so as to drive those who love me to accept me, the REAL me – and not the bowdlerized image they made of “girls” – and those who deny “girls who like girls.”
My struggle is to love thee, you, my lover, my love, and take you beyond yourself. Thou, that I call “my friend” before my folks and “my sister” before my friends. You are my lover, my love, but also the one who says day after day, “traditions do not allow...”. You love me in the silence of the night, in the dark and the shadow. You tell me: “Don’t ...”. “You should not hurt your mother, your son, your friends. You should not disrupt people... “. But you often cry because they do not understand you. And I have no words to comfort you because, in the end, I do not understand ourselves.
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e must transform the Earth to tell the world who we are, because otherwise they will never know us. Our mission is to go beyond ourselves towards a double love: to love ourselves and to love those who hate us. It’s about taking you to love me beyond who you are and let me love you beyond who I am. To love to each other before them as we love each other in the dark. So our struggle will not be to live together, but to let them know that “we belong together”. So your brothers will no longer have the right to love me, nor my folks the right to cuddle you, because they will know that you’re not only my friend, but my lover, my love. Our struggle is to be able to hold hands and walk together in times of suffering. Faced with boos and bangs, we shall let the world see us they way we are, allow the world the time to get to know us. Then we shall build a new world where thou shalt be YOU, and I shall be ME, and others shall also be OTHERS. We shall be US and YOU – all equal, but different.
THIS CITY, THIS BODY Poem by Rita Nketiah & Drawing by Xonanji
this city makes me skittish i have shrunk i have gone into myself here, i have faced demons head on. i have been lonely. i have sat in the dark facing myself. picked at toenails not showered for days. not cooked for weeks touched myself on the inside parts huffed and puffed balled fists in tear-filled corners raised fists hiding rouge-coloured nails twerked azontoâ€™d separated parts of me to piece them back together whole and holy sound asleep in bed for 18 straight hours lived there for twice that length in a town, country, world like this, brown girls cover up ears, pointy.
side profiles, looking too Akan. too much like the ancestors. jawline full. not graceful. head squarish. sometimes this body apologizes too much for what Goddess gave as gift. for what Nature made sacred whole and holy And Janelle sings in the background: to be victorious, you must find glory in the little things.
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VERSE You’ve got rules Telling me what to do But is there anybody checkin’ up on you Well, I’m no fool I do what I’ve got to do Many have died for a freedom of mind, for the freedom of truth Could you be guilty for being a little bit different from the rest Come on, come on, come on now people Put yourself to the test CHORUS Every minority has a priority We want to be equally free Love me or hate me, discriminate me But you can’t change the way I feel Who is the one to judge telling me who to love, telling me how to live, telling me what life is Oh, how you’re mistreating me
VERSE What you say Is that I’m not supposed to be Lyric by Shishani Vranckx & Photos by Walking this earth, that I don’t deserve Christie Keulder & Paolo Schneider To live a free life Well, I know I’ve got so much to give to you I feel no shame, despite your blame cause my love Music is real Could you be guilty for being a little bit different from the rest Come on, come on, come on now people Put yourself to the test CHORUS Every minority has a priority We want to be equally free Love me or hate me, discriminate me
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But you can’t change the way I feel Who is the one to judge telling me who to love, telling me how to live, telling me what life is Oh, how you’re mistreating me BREAK We need a black sheep to distract us from reality Point your finger at me I bet that makes it easy We need to realize where the true trouble lies It ain’t who you are But the size of your mind Can you see with your heart And look past preconceptions Can you see my soul Past the labeling section This is who I am I’m gonna stand up proud Won’t let no one bring me down
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POETIC JUST-US Poem by Tatenda Muranda & Photo by GPhOZ
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Here we are bubbling beings, In this small space we call home. The corrugated iron and newspaper we have fashioned into comfort, Comforts us with our privacy, And fashions a place where we make sense. Out there, in the world, there is no room for this girl and boy But here you are my king-queen and I am your squire. ***
In the present past they would have called you Modjadji. And I would have called you mine. Every night. Mine with devotion. In this present people stare as we walk past. ***
You are brave by being you, Criminally you create the spaces you navigate, Stealthily you dismiss those malevolent stares, You are stealing time for us and I know it. ***
Your bandages bind you together with Your chest, A space ravaged by the wounds of a body not-quite-right And a person not-quite-clear on how to be more clear. ***
I would hide you to save you, Cloak you and refuse to say sthandwa sami, I would deny you, to my grave and from yours. But that would already be death. ***
In your arms I would remember the legends. Stories of the women who had wives and the men who could bear children, But in these nows there are no tales for us. ***
As you lay there, still and silently cold Your rough hands and butter skin plead for my bravery, While my tears and mouthed goodbyes plead for the past. We cannot talk anymore, my devotion cannot reach across time, nor can my longing restore you. ***
I am left with images as memories, Love smells and smiles, Searing stares and sneers, An empty heart in my broken home And the word â€œisitabaneâ€? reminding me That this sorrowful song, ends in death without justice. And that our poetry was poetic when it was just us. Issue 10, December 2014 | 97
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Published on Jan 5, 2015