A group, seated in a circle. I would love to tell you how everyone looked like but I never scan the crowd. Partly because I am severely short-sighted, mostly because I am painfully shy. Certain people stood out though. Njoki Ngumi, the moderator, Kari from NGLHRC and the artists who we had sat behind. Kawira in her jumper and jeans, Wawira and Faith in black and Awuor in her African print. They looked normal. Human even. I think after looking after their art, I might have placed them in a different planet. Somewhere in the periphery of the cosmos where artists who have mastered their art reside.
They answered questions regarding their art and their struggles and their stories. They struggled with some questions, they smiled sheepishly, they were terribly human. Again. I was surprised.
Kawira explained how each of her khangas represents what has been shared of country’s queer history. Each Khanga is a homage to the queer people in that community. Her favourite khangas vary. She likes some because they have evoked emotion. Others because they depict an interesting history. And sometimes it just boils down to liking the design. She is not sure if she’ll continue doing khangas. But she is certain that she wants to keep doing art that people interact with.
‘It’s very important to claim the stories we are sharing. ‘ Kawira
Awuor also likes her art to be interactive. She talked about our privilege and how if we sit on our privilege and not help, we won’t achieve anything. She observed that we are deeply traumatized people who just walk around with our trama. She likes to invite people to communicate with trauma.
“Often, we think we are alone and we’re not. If we speak to each other we can find a solution. If not, at least we are still speaking.”
Faith is smaller than I thought she would be. Most of her work is about mental health. She wats to portray a different existence of a queer person dealing with a mental health issue. Her work is intense, complex and raw. She says that every time she puts out vulnerable stuff, she is unearthing herself. I like that. Making art can be painful. It’s not always easy talking to yourself and that’s where the pain of release comes from. From making art, she has learned this of herself, that she is too sensitive.
Wawira looks for beauty through photography. She thinks we are ashamed of the wrong things in life. Like our naked bodies. Most men tell her that they can’t stare at their naked bodies in front of a mirror. She has been studying how masculinity has been portrayed over the years. With most of her subjects, she lets them choose their composition. Now she is wants to look at masculinity in females. Masculinity is not just within men. People should feel the comfort of saying they are masculine presenting without the pressure of conforming. Without having to change into a dress, and maybe even wear makeup when it’s time to go home. You can do the job without having to wear a dress.
“I am against any form of tastefulness. “ Wawira
& still we rise with the sun & plant seeds of love in dark
places & still we love & hide & wait for rapture within a boy’s body as a voice flirts with
the birds in his throat and a man burning on a street in Lagos for singing too loud.
It is dark outside. Inside, my blood is singing. my soul is humming. I have had the pleasure of sitting at a table with my own kind. We have shared art, thoughts and feelings. My heart is full.
I would like to thank NGLHRC for hosting the exhibition and the artists for letting us in. And Shutter for all the amazing pictures.