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Cameroon's LGBT Community is Facing Increasing Persecution

A recent report by Human Rights Watch has highlighted, with tremendous concern, the increasing persecution being faced by the LGBT community in Cameroon.

There are significant concerns over human rights abuses in Cameroon, according to a report shared by Human Rights Watch (HRW). The campaign group has highlighted the rising persecution of members of the Cameroonian LGBT community which have been documented over the past few months. Security forces in the country have been accused of threatening, assaulting and arresting queer individuals.


READ: Security Forces in Ghana Target New LGBT Rights Group Centre

According to the HRW report, at least 24 Cameroonians have been arrested since February for allegedly engaging in same-sex conduct or gender non-conformity. Among those arrested have included a 17-year-old boy. Additionally, some of the alarming violations have included forcing those arrested to take HIV tests and subjecting them to anal examinations. Moreover, these forces anal examinations have also been entered as evidence in court when convicting those charged with homosexuality.

Neela Ghoshal, the associate LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch, comments on the report saying, "These recent arrests and abuses raise serious concerns about a new upsurge in anti-LGBT persecution in Cameroon." Ghoshal goes on to add that, "The law criminalising same-sex conduct puts LGBT people at a heightened risk of being mistreated, tortured, and assaulted without any consequences for the abusers."

Cameroon is just one of the many African countries where homosexuality remains illegal. The Human Dignity Trust writes this about the country's laws: "Article 347-1 prohibits sexual relations with a person of the same sex with a penalty of between six months to five years imprisonment, as well as a fine."

While Cameroon's laws outrightly criminalise homosexuality, progressive countries like South Africa have been forced to reckon with the continued gruesome murders of members of the LGBT community. Recently, a 40-year-old man, Andile "Lulu" Ntuthela, was murdered for being a homosexual by 28-year-old suspect and had South Africans demanding justice under the online banner #JusticeForLulu. Ntuthela's death follows that of Sphamandla Khoza who was also murdered because of his sexual orientationa little over a week ago in KwaZulu-Natal.

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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.

Film
Photo: Cyrille Choupas

Alice Diop On Using Film to Center Marginalized Stories

The French director, whose latest film Saint Omer has been selected by France as its submission for the Best International Picture race, is known for her nuanced portraits of humanity.

“When I hear myself through Nicholas, I find me [sic] too radical!” French filmmaker Alice Diop jokes during our conversation, after hearing some of her words and thoughts filtered through her translator Nicholas Elliott.

Diop was responding passionately to a question about the tensions in France between holding onto assimilation policies and embracing a more modern ethos of inclusion and diversity. She is tying her argument to the radical leaning of French republicanism, which is very, very different from the conservative spirit embraced by the Republican party in the United States, where she is expected to appear in October to present her latest film, Saint Omer at the New York Film Festival.

Saint Omer marks Diop’s transition to fiction after seventeen years working as a documentary filmmaker. The film, which won the Grand Jury prize and best debut feature prizes recently at the Venice Film Festival where it debuted, is a wrenching legal drama that follows a young novelist Rama (Kayije Kagame) covering the trial of an immigrant mother accused of infanticide.

Before her triumph at Venice, Diop was in New York to promote the MUBI release of her latest documentary, We (Nous), which premiered at the 2021 Berlinale, where it won the Encounters Grand Prize. The film chronicles a disparate group of people, including an immigrant mechanic and a writer from the Parisian suburbs, and places their lives in connection to the RER B commuter train cutting through the city from the north to south. Diop makes We (Nous) a personal declaration of belonging, weaving footage from her family archive and trailing her sister, a home nurse, at work as she provides care for her patients.

Diop, who is a first-generation daughter of immigrants from Senegal had a wide-ranging chat with OkayAfrica about her films, belonging to French society, and her reasons for prioritizing the stories of the marginalized.

Interview has been edited for length and clarity.

In We (Nous), you are telling these seemingly unrelated stories without obvious connections. What is the common thread linking these stories or people together?

The link is a very personal vision that I have of French society. It is a vision that is at once a dreamed vision but also something already there and not many people see. It is about what can unite people who appear to be so different in a single territory or country. And in a sense, the thread is one that I am weaving myself. It doesn’t exist as such but something very subjective.

In terms of constructing the film, what was the starting point for you?

It started from the book, The Passengers of the Roissy Express published in France about 30 years ago. It is a nonfiction book in which the writer, François Maspero takes the RER B train and follows it to the last stop. This is the train that has the peculiarity of crossing all of the Paris banlieues (low-income suburbs) from north to south. Now these are very different areas that have a great diversity of populations that really express the complexity of French society. I read this book, and it gave me the framework for using the name of the train to describe these very different territories.

A still from the film, We (Nous) of train tracks.

We (Nous) chronicles a disparate group of people, including an immigrant mechanic and a writer from the Parisian suburbs, and places their lives in connection to the RER B commuter train cutting through the city from the north to south.

Photo: Mubi

At what point does your family come in and how do you weave them into the narrative?

This film is a composition of the singularities of the many different people who live and work in France, and my family is part of that history. That is why I wanted to use our family archive in the film because it is a symbolic way of inscribing these traces of my family, and people like them, who are not shown in the constitution of French society. The archive, for me, completes a missing part of French history. I have so little in terms of archives of my family. I have only less than 17 minutes of images of my mother and everything that I have is in this film. That is something very painful; the lives that my parents had were not necessarily appreciated. These were lives that were not epic or did not have the right narratives. At least that was the feeling that I had because the people that I saw on television, in films and novels were not like me. They did not have my history or background, so I grew up with that absence. And I think that is why I became a filmmaker, to repair the violence of having this unrepresented life.

In a sense, this film, and your entire career has been about adjusting this narrative?

Absolutely. This question touches me because this is at the very heart of my filmmaking. I have done this work ever since the desire came upon me to do it, as a way to not succumb to the anger. My new (fiction) film, Saint Omer is focused on Black women, and is inspired by my mother, and it made me realize how much I needed to do this. I want to add up their bodies in film and in history.

Film, for me, is not a space for entertainment, it is a space for revenge and self-care. Saint Omer is not about the banlieues at all. I believe that people from the banlieues have every right to make films that are not about the banlieues. It is about maternity, and I have every right to talk about maternity because it is a question that is relevant to Black women, as much as it is to white women. I am speaking from my own body, and I think the closer I am to myself, the more likely I am to touch other people.

In the film, you talk about not paying into the family fund that ensures you are buried back home in Senegal. Was coming to this realization difficult?

Exile is not just measured in economic gain; it is also a loss that I cannot even qualify. This relationship to the land where you will be buried, I find it a beautiful thing to choose where you are going to die. But the most concrete way of saying where you belong is to say where you are going to be buried. And for me to say it publicly the way I did was for me to cut myself off. I have a 13-year-old mixed race son who was born and lives in France. I speak French, I don’t speak Wolof. I go to Senegal twice a year at most. I am a Frenchwoman.

Now, I am a very particular kind of Frenchwoman; I am a Black woman with colonial history so the most concrete way for me to be French is to say I am going to be buried where my son lives, or where he is most probably going to live. And that’s not a choice between France and Senegal that I am making, it is a way of saying that I am in harmony with where I am. But it does separate me forever from the place where my parents came from. It is hard to think about, even in this conversation with you. It is the entire complexity that is raised here: of the path of immigrants, of the trajectories of coming and of going, of where you are. It is something that is so complex and intense that merely signifying it is already an achievement. It is also a very universal question.

A still from the film We (Nous) of the filmmaker sitting at a table with an interviewee.

Alice Diop and Pierre Bergounioux in a pivotal moment from We (Nous).

Photo: Mubi

And when you put yourself in the frame by the end of the film, are you completing this tapestry that you are sewing?

In a sense. My appearing with my Black woman’s body in the frame, next to this writer Pierre Bergounioux, in his office is a way for me to get revenge for my father for the 40 difficult years he spent working in France. There is a point in the film when I ask my father if spending these years in France has been positive or negative, and he says it’s been a positive gain overall. But I have the intuition that for his daughter to be able to go to university and do things that as a working man, and my mother as a cleaning woman, never had the opportunity to do, and then to show myself in the frame next to this white writer in the film that I am making -- that I have invited the writer to -- I think that shows something about French society and what it can allow. And that repairs, to some degree, the pain that my parents experienced by coming here to offer me a life that they could not have.

Translation by Nicholas Elliott.

Culture
Image courtesy of the artist

Spotlight: Obou Gbais Is Painting The Story of His Life

The artist is reimagining Cote D'Ivoire's history through modern, contemporary language and his latest project "Man Dan"

In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists, and more who are producing vibrant, original work.

In our latest piece, we spotlight Ivorian artist Obou GbaisAKA Peintre Obou. Obou's remarkably detailed style of painting comes after years of training and educating himself in all things Cote D'Ivoire. The artist's work mirrors the society found in the aftermath of the Ivory Coast's political-military unrest, putting paint on the harsh conditions he witnessed in capital city Abidjan. The emotive expressions donned on the Dan masked faces speak to Obou's acknowledgment of his people and the shameful conditions forced upon them due to a war that didn't involve them. As the artist puts it, "The main theme is the human condition, the characteristics, major events, and situations that make up the essence of human existence", and tapping into his ancestry allows the talent to soothe all aspects of his identity, one paint stroke at a time.

We spoke with Obou about the importance of learning from those who are where you wish to be, and finding authenticity.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.


Describe your background as an artist and the journey you've taken to get it to where it is today.

I was born in the West of the Ivory Coast and studied in Abidjan, the capital. My ambition to become an artist started at a young age, and knew that I would pursue it in high school, and then when I went to college. I worked hard at improving myself -- and to form myself as well as my art -- and in 2012, I obtained my BA in Art. Two years later, I attended Abidjan's National School of Fine Art and from that moment, I really started to practice and educated myself in the world of art.

For five years I attended painting workshops with teachers who were also artists and who exposed me to the creation of the "perpetual". I learned a lot from them and it allowed me to open my work up to constructive criticism, which today has given me a certain openness of mind on art and the ability to continuously renew myself.


What are the central themes in your work?

My work is the story of my life -- my environment, my culture, my love stories, my traumas. My daily life. The main theme is the human condition, the characteristics, major events, and situations that make up the essence of human existence. I talk about my life, my city and also the people who live there. The element that defines me today is the Dan Mask. I have reappropriated the mask of my ancestors to create a contemporary language. In my work, I reconcile my contemporaries with their ancestral cultures by writing my story in a series of works. Generally, one sees masked crowds, one finds demoiselles of my city Abidjan. Couples and family scenes are perceived with the Dan mask and take the center of interest.


What is your medium of choice, and why?

I am sensitive to all mediums and supports but generally gravitate towards those that allow me to better transcribe the story I am telling. It's enriching for me to keep experimenting with new materials in order to be able to tell new stories. I work mostly with brushes, acrylics, and collages, but also with my hands and natural materials like earth, which give my artwork even more authenticity.

How has the pandemic affected you creatively?

The pandemic has affected my creativity in a productive and positive way. I suddenly had more time alone at home to concentrate on my work and try out new elements and methods. Many people had to limit themselves to a minimum during this time, which can be inspiring, especially for artists. Already this is a time in our lives when we were condemned to wear masks and my work is about people wearing masks. It allowed for some connections with my outside world. The series of confined people in their homes and on the streets was a testimony to the realities of that period in Abidjan.


Can you describe your artistic relationship with 'Afro-futurism' and 'surrealism'?

I consider myself as an Afro-futurist because I use, like all young people today, new technologies such as social networks to talk about my culture and share my creations with the world. Putting my country on the world stage through my work and especially my history. I would say that I consider myself a realist and not a surrealist, just by what I transcribe in my daily life -- I speak about real facts with real forms.


Can you talk about your use of colors and jewelry in your art?

The colors and jewelry are elements that appear at different times. There have been times when my work was quite dark with minimal color. And also periods when I feel a lot and peace which are symbolized in my work with quite fresh colors which give emotions.



Image courtesy of the artist

"Dan Love" 150x150 cm 2022 by Obou Gbais

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