Literature
Photo courtesy of Abantu Book Festival.

A Controversy Followed Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to Abantu Book Fest—How Did it Turn Out?

Attendees of the book festival had mixed reactions to her interview with Prof. Pumla Gqola.

All eyes are on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Those without seats in the noisy tent are seated at her feet. Everyone is listening intently. Cameras go off trying to catch her at her every angle. Our beloved Prof. Pumla Gqola, asks Adichie what exactly she intended with her comments on trans-women. Adichie responds: "When the trans noise began."


Some in the audience shake their heads in what may be disappointment, a few nod and the rest appear to be enraptured by Adichie. But no-one seems visibly distressed by her comments. No-one gets up and leaves. After Adichie is finished speaking, the hall erupts into applause.

Last week, the beloved annual Abantu Book Festival took place in Soweto, Johannesburg. This year's marquee guest was acclaimed Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She was received by a somewhat divided community due to her controversial comments last year about trans-folk during an interview with Britain's Channel 4 News last year.

The Abantu Book Festival is an annual event that celebrates the culture of reading and writing in a safe and inclusive space for black people. In its third year now, it has come to be one of the most highly anticipated literary events on the calendars of black South Africans and black folk in general.

Being this safe space, why did the organisers of the festival then invite Adichie given her past comments, comments she then rehashed?

Unsurprisingly, many who came to see Adichie speak were either unphased by the writer's reputation or defended her point.

Johannesburg writer Nobantu Shabangu, who identifies as non-binary and trans, expressed indifference to Adichie's presence at the festival citing that "womanhood and manhood are tenuous issues.''

Another attendee, Boitshepo Mvulane, was in vehement support of Adichie, her main argument being that "we need to have a better manner of debating so that there is enlightenment for both parties". She added that "many of us are ignorant about LGBT issues and it comes out in our nakedness at the dinner table".

Another attendee, Sixo Geilishe, asserted that "as a human rights activist, Adichie was simply a victim of the trap that one is intentionally being exclusive" and that "it was never her intention to do so."

Continuing her response, Adichie felt that she was in the beginning, on the defensive because she had been misunderstood. She asserted that she was on the side of trans-women and not against them, even going as far as saying that trans-women actually made the best case for feminism. In addition, she said that she refused to conform to the use of certain language which she claimed was an orthodoxy with which she was not going to align herself.

Listen to her full response below.



Twitter user @divanificent expressed how Adichie was not a victim of the culture of 'cancelling' she spoke of and how her transphobic views were dangerous given her standing and various platforms.


A troubling aspect of the controversy is how Abantu has not directly responded to any of the concerns of both attendees and those who did not attend. They could not be reached for comment at the time of publication. Several prominent South African writers who attended Abantu, feminists in their own right, have not publicly condemned Adichie's comments. Perhaps the excitement of bagging an internationally revered author prevents people from being willing to rock the boat? Abantu has established itself as a community that seeks to hold others accountable and yet, it has a hard time doing the same.

Another twitter user @leighratoh spoke to how she felt that it was uncanny how many had attended Abantu solely to see Adichie and then proceeded to tweet their fake outrage about her comments, triggering trans-women who didn't even attend the event in the first place.


Following Adichie's infamous interview with Channel 4 News, Editor of Out Magazine Raquel Willis, a transgender woman herself, articulated quite well: "Chimamanda being asked about trans women is like Lena Dunham being asked about Black women. It doesn't work. We can speak for ourselves."

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Photo by Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images via Getty Images

8 Queer-Owned African Fashion Brands to Check Out For Pride

In honor of pride month, we highlight eight African queer fashion designers and brands putting queer stories on the global map through fashion.

In the last decade, there have been an emergent of fashion designers who aren’t just queer but have aligned their fashion vision with their identity, creating demystifying collections and criss-crossing their concepts and ideologies to represent the inscape of non-conformity, fluidity, queerness and androgyny — whilst maintaining a quick balance with their cultural roots. Despite the numerous fabric experimentations and collections, these designers never forget to tell stories that align with them, especially those that resonate with queer people in queer unfriendly countries.

In honor of pride month, OkayAfrica highlights 8 African queer fashion designers and brands putting queer stories on the global map through fashion.

Rich Mnisi

South African designer Rich Mnisi is part of a new wave of designers putting African stories on the global map. Founded in 2015, the brand Rich Mnisi is immersed at offering fluid expression to gender, celebrating youthful excellence and exploring extremist design elements with minimalist cultural tailoring. For pride month, the brand released a limited edition capsule titled “Out." The capsule visualizes a fine-line between elegance and fluidity whilst boldly emphasizing on the act of struggle and resilience as an outfit.

Udiahgebi

For a fashion brand like Udiahgebi, identity is very important. And offering that form of visibility to femme queer Nigerians is not just a form of visual activism but a detailed story of essence. The brand was founded by Emerie Udiahgebi, a gender non-forming fashion designer who wanted to give queer, non-binary and non-conforming individuals more options to express themselves fashionably. Udiahgebi’s fashion concept is extremely bold, fierce, and unconventional.

Lagos Space Programme

Designer Adeju Thompson fuses traditionalist concepts with genderless possibilities. Founded in 2018, Lagos Space Programme is a gender-neutral fashion brand that enveloped aesthetic designs using local craftsmanship. The brand appreciates West African unique fabric and communicates compelling stories of identity, gender and queerness — a ideology that has garnered them not just audience but earned them a spot at the LVMH prize.

Muyishime

Patrick Muyishime is a fashion innovator. Not only does he know how to source excellent fabrics but his designs are authentically vibrant. Founded in 2016, Muyishime is a Kenyan fashion label that introduces conversations surrounding androgynous and explores aesthetically fabric inventions that commands fluidity, feminine wiles and constructive elegance.

Bola Yahaya

Founded in 2019, Bola Taofeek Yahaya's fashion label aligns thought provoking pieces that elevate the discusses around queer representation, sexuality and feminity. The brands merges sustainability and explore eccentric fabric experimentations.

Nao Serati

Founded by South African designer Nao Serati Mofammere in 2014, the fashion brand Nao Serati explores the versatility of gender and the fine margin of sexuality whilst finding its balance with their South African heritage. Mofammere wants his brand to explore masculinity and the different ways it takes to wear a fragile look.

Vangei

Lolu Vangei has different recipes to gender fluidity and she has used fashion to express that. Founded in 2018, Vangei is a fashion label that unites modern ideology of afro-centricism to produce pieces that dismantle cliched ideas about gender.

Mayetobs

There is no explaining the sort of talent Emmanuel Tobiloba possesses. Founded in 2020, Mayetobs' eccentric approach in reinstating androgynous norms is interesting. From oversized pants that speaks of fabric maximalism to fast flowing robes, the fashion brand is an ode to redefining modern masculinity.

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Photo Credit: Screengrab from Ìfé

The 10 Best African LGBTQ+ Films to Watch This Pride Month

From lesbian love stories to documentaries about South African queer love, here is a list of LGBTQ+ films to watch for Pride month.

Historically, LGBTQ+ films have never been in the mainstream in countries around Africa, mainly because of the intolerance of the various film industries around the continent.

However, over the past decade, there has been progress, with significant representation of LGBTQ+ people on screen. These examples come mostly from independent filmmakers within several countries in the continent. But it hasn't been easy. Throughout Africa, there have been laws that not only ban these films but put a jail term that punishes the filmmakers who have put efforts to produce a nuance story of the lived experiences of queer people in films.

To celebrate the efforts of these filmmakers and to acknowledge these thought provoking stories that are inspired from the realities of LGBTQ+ individuals, OkayAfrica put in a list on the 10 LGBTQ+ films to watch for Pride month.

Braids on a Bald Head (2010)

Braids on a Bald Head is an award-winning Nigerian film directed by Isahaya Bako. It tells the story of a submissive wife who does everything for her husband. But having a new neighbor, who is much different from her, begins to change her perception. When things in her marriage get sour, she finds the strength to ask for better treatment after an experience that makes her question her sexuality.

Difficult Love (2010)

Zanele Muholi’s power as an artist and activist is beyond this planet. Difficult Love introduces us to Muholi’s life, while capturing the lives of several Black lesbians and their lived experiences in South Africa.

Coming out of the Nkuta (2011)

Coming out of the Nkuta tells the tale of a Cameroonian defense attorney who boldly defends arrested queer folks. The heartbreaking documentary speaks about the situation in Cameroon and the LGBTQ community who live in great fear.

Stories of Our Lives (2014)

Created by an art collective in Nairobi called The Nest Collective, Stories of Our Lives details the lived experiences of queer people in Kenya. The movie is an anthology that features five short films.

While You Weren’t Looking (2014)

While You Weren’t Looking aligns queerness with race and speaks on the struggle of queer women in South Africa. Twenty years after apartheid, two lesbian couples who live in Cape Town get separated. While they explore their different lives apart, their adopted daughter gets caught up in her own world, exploring her bi-sexuality. Her dilemma? She isn’t black enough — something her girlfriend helps her navigate.

Reluctantly Queer (2016)

Akosua Adoma Owusu'sReluctantly Queer, an eight minute short film, tells the story of a young Ghanaian man who struggles to keep two personal-contrasting factors balanced: his love for his mother and his sexuality.

The Wound (2017)

Directed by John Trengove, The Wound is a powerful movie that navigates masculinity. The movie is centered around a group of young boys from South Africa who get sent to a rural, remote camp where they will be initiated into manhood, in various ways.

We Don’t Live Here Anymore (2018)

We Don’t Live Here Anymore centers on two teenage boys who are caught in a romantic scandal that turns into tragedy. The film shows the reality of the class divide that exists in Nigeria and the capitalist hypocrisy that is accompanied with it.

Ìfé (2020)

Ìfé is a fascinating film that shows the intimacy between two queer women. The movie uses dialogue to tell the story of two women navigating a homophobic society. Written and directed by Uyaiedu Ike-Etim — and produced by Pamela Adie — the 37- minutes film communicates love and family.

Country Love (2022)

Wapah Ezeigwe's Country love is a story about two men who, after years of being apart, rekindle their love. But everything doesn’t go as planned. In the end, one is wafting for continuity, the other pirouettes away because of societal perception towards queerness. The film is a joyful celebration of the femme identity and communicates themes like departure, homophobia and the frill of belonging.

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If you like these music lists, you can also check out our Best Songs of the Month columns following Nigerian, Ghanaian, East African and South African music.

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