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Rainbow flag used to represent the LGBTQIA++ and Ghana's National flag

Here's What We Know About #ReleaseThe21, Ghana's Latest LGBTQI+ Rights Movement

#ReleaseThe21 is a solidarity movement that aims to amplify the voices of 21 Ghanaian LGBTQI+ activists who are reportedly still behind bars after being unlawfully arrested 10 days ago during a conference hosted by human rights organisation, Rightify Ghana.

Ghana's queer community has taken to Twitter in a moving demonstration that calls for solidarity following Ghana's latest crackdown on innocent members of the LGBTQI+ community. 21 Ghanaian activists were arrested on May 21, during a conference where paralegals and activists were undergoing training in support of the LGBTQI+ community. The police allegedly barged in during the workshop, took photographs of the members and ceased their possessions before arresting them.


Same-sex relations are criminalised in Ghana, and there are allegations that the media teamed up with police authorities in an effort to stall Rightify Ghana's conference. According to GCN, the 21 activists were arrested on the grounds of an "unlawful assembly" and advocating homosexuality at a hotel in Ho region. Police then confiscated educational brochures on coming out, transgender acceptance and intersex knowledge. Though not clear how all 21 members identify, the statement released by the Ghana Police Service claims that 16 are women and 5 men "suspected to be either gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex". Many Ghanaians have called the arrests a breach of the law, especially considering that none of the members have been granted bail.

Alex Kofi Donkor, the director of LGBT+ Rights Ghana, which was raided by police at the start of 2021 was deeply by affected by the recent arrests and slammed the police for the homophobic actions guised as a lawful response. Donkor had this to say to Ghana's UniversNews:

"A clear indication of the police inciting hate and violence against other citizens. Which part of our constitution or criminal code criminalises LGBTQ persons such that you will ask that people should report incidents? This is a clear violation of our human rights as equal citizens of this country and it is being perpetrated by the police who have a mandate to protect us."

The police unashamedly stated that the arrests were in line with protecting the Ghanaian public, and in a scare tactic forewarned parents to report any LGBTQI+ events or meetings that support the community. Donkor, according to CNN, emphasised that LGBTQI+ persons are still targeted and singled out from their communities. The workshops then exist to equip queer individuals with knowledge on how to protect themselves and dealing with issues of abuse should they arise.

#ReleaseThe21 gained traction on Twitter soon after the arrests and caught the attention of international audiences. According to Them., Netflix's Pose actor Angelica Ross has used their platform to urge Black Americans to join in solidarity with movement. Wanlov The Kubolor, Ghana's multi-disciplinary artist and activist, is the latest artist to add his voice to the online demonstration. He and shared a video of himself this past Sunday after visiting the 21. The soft-spoken artists rallied Ghanians to advocate for the release of the 21 members and called for the humane treatment of LGBTQI+ people after detailing the deplorable jail conditions in which the 21 are detained. OutRight Action International which is a legal aid organisation, Alliance For Equality and Diversity (AfED) and more Ghanaian LGBTQI+ organisations have been outspoken about the injustice of the 21 and have publicly joined the movement.

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

Efforts by human rights lawyers to secure the release of the detainees were rejected by the Ho Circuit Court. While same-sex relations are illegal the official bill has yet to enter into Ghana's legislation. There is no prohibition against the gathering of LGBTQI+ people and furthermore, the freedom of association is upheld in Ghana's Constitution. The 21 are expected to appear in court on June 4, 2021.

Here are some Twitter responses:







Kenya
Photo by TONY KARUMBA/AFP via Getty Images

William Ruto's Presidential Win Clouded by Odinga's Rejection

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga is struggling to deal with his loss to current Deputy President Ruto, and may influence civil unrest.

East African nation Kenya has long been considered one of Africa's most beautiful examples of a stable, democratically led country. But, as we know, all good things must eventually come to an end.

This year's presidential election proved to be the most tumultuous in the country's recent history, as current Deputy President-turned-President elect William Ruto was announced as the victor earlier this week. His opposition, however, is having a hard time adjusting. After news of his loss came out, Kenyan politician and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga declared the election results "null and void", and decided to challenge them in court.

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Photo courtesy of the artist.

Kelvyn Boy On Becoming One of Afrobeats’ Leading Stars

The Ghanaian singer narrates how his latest single "Down Flat" has accelerated the trajectory of his career.

Kelvyn Boy is one of the leading afrobeats hitmakers from Ghana. Since his official debut in 2017 under singer Stonebwoy’s record label imprint Burniton Music Group, the talented singer, songwriter, and performer has consistently dished out hit after hit. From the sentimental midtempo ballad “Na You” to the gritty afropop cut “Mea” to his Mugeez and Darkovibes-assisted smash hit “Momo”, with every new release Kelvyn Boy has established his profile as one of the West African nation’s top afrobeats acts.

Fast forward to January 2022, Kelvyn Boy drops his most recent single “Down Flat," an infectious afrobeats single produced by Nigerian producer KullBoiBeatz, and the song has been immensely successful. “Down Flat” has held the number one spot on Apple Music’s “Top 100: Ghana” playlist, hit number 10 on Billboard’s “Worldwide Digital Song Sales” chart, just a couple of out several other accolades the song has landed in the few short months since its release.

The effect of the song’s success has already kicked in, with the singer in London, United Kingdom as I speak to him, which is one of the early stops of his current world tour. “Down Flat” is currently the biggest song of his career so far, and even Kelvyn Boy himself didn’t see it coming. “Some of the great things that happen are unpredictable and unplanned. I didn’t really see it coming” he explained. “Everyone believes in himself or herself. I have that belief and that feeling already when I’m making every song. If it’s not right, I won't sing it. But I didn’t see it coming as quick as it did, and I didn’t know it would get to this level. I knew it was gonna be big, but honestly it got out of hand.”

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Images: Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images; Photo by Joseph Okpako/WireImage; Photo by Burak Cingi/Redferns

This Year's Lost In Riddim Music Festival Is Canceled

The music festival was canceled by organizers as they prepare to come back even bigger and better in the New Year.

Update 08/17: And another one bites the dust.

This year's Lost in Riddim international music and art festival has been canceled, according to a statement shared via the event's official Instagram page. What would have been the Bay Area's delicious groove fest to end off of summer 2022, the raincheck has left both concert-goers and event organizers, Sol Blume, in distress. Performances from the likes of Burna Boy, Wizkid, Major League DJs, Davido, legendary Jamaican rapper Sean Paul, were set to set the stages on fire over this year's Nigerian Independence Day weekend. We trust that they'll come back even stronger after some time to regroup.

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Photos
Image courtesy of the Institute Museum of Ghana

Spotlight: Nigerian Artist Festus Alagbe Is Unmasking Your True Identity

We spoke with the visual artist on identity and letting your intuition guide you to success.

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 Nigerian visual artist Festus Kehinde Alagbe. The painting major comes from a family of creatives and entrepreneurs and uses his life experiences and understandings to reflect messages back to the society to which he belongs. Acknowledging his strengths and choosing to focus his energy on his creative pursuits, Alagbe uses the concept of 'masking' to reveal the hidden meaning behind the norms that society has placed upon us. Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem 'We Wear The Mask', acts as a great inspiration for the young artist, as his understanding of human nature led him to portray his artistic subjects as unmasking and masking whichever expression they believe will suit the mood. Alagbe's work also illustrates how the everyday person copes with the harsh realities of life on Earth.

We spoke with the artist about his current spot in Ghana's Noldor Artist Residency, allowing yourself to learn more about your craft, and the pressure that comes with identity.

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.

My artistic journey began in childhood: I was born into a family that holds entrepreneurs and creatives in high esteem. And we're all creative -- my parents were fashion designers, and, likewise my twin brother.

I’m an instinctive artist. I have always wanted to express my imaginations and experiences in a visual form -- either on a two-dimensional surface or in three-dimensional form. That which I can not express with words, I want to express as messages that people can learn from, relate with, and encourage society. But, knowing that instincts aren't enough, I joined The Polytechnic, Ibadan's Department of Art and Design as a painting major to be mentored and become a professional Artist. I became a full-time artist when graduated from school.

I’m currently a Visiting Fellow at the Noldor Artist Residency in Accra, Ghana.

What are the central themes in your work?

I capture different bisected facial expressions to represent time and seasons in the form of masks. I believe that the range of expressions that a face creates is not the true identity. Facial expressions are subject to the situation of society. “We wear the mask that grins and lies, it hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,” says a poem titled “We Wear The Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar.

The true Identity is hidden inside every individual. The characters you exhibit will be determined by the kind of seeds you sow into yourself -- either love or hatred. I use flowers to capture love, passion, seasons, and transient time. The elements I use in the back are biomorphic and fluid in shape, depicting structures and institutions in the world. I also capture and depict Black bodies bursting through with floral elements, referring to the optimism that lies with the pain of being Black, depicting a sense of growth and resilience in the face of ubiquitous racial prejudice and adversity largely faced by people of color. And the flowers bursting through different genders captures different emotions and expressions.

What is your medium of choice, and why?

I use various mediums to express myself, like acrylic, oil, charcoal, etc. I use different mediums as a professional artist because I don’t want to be limited to a medium before I can express myself.

Recently, I uses oil to detail my subject (faces) and acrylic for the background because it dries faster and can be controlled easily.

How has the pandemic affected you creatively?

It has actually affected me in the area of market value and the unavailability of materials to work. But all glory to God for today.

Can you describe your artistic relationship with ‘Afro-futurism' and 'Surrealism’?

I’m a surreal artist of African origin. So, my artistic practice is based on surrealism from an African perspective to address some situations or issues in society at large. I strike a balance between realism, fantasy, and imagination. Afrofuturism addresses themes and concerns of the African diaspora through technoculture and speculative fiction, encompassing a range of media and artists with a shared interest in envisioning Black futures that stem from Afro-diasporic experiences. While Afrofuturism is most commonly associated with science fiction, it can also encompass other speculative genres such as fantasy, alternate history, and magic realism. These are what make my practice relate to Afro-futurism.

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

I use dark skin tones and colors to depict Black faces with bodies, and I use monochrome colors to explore abstract landscapes as my background. And the abstraction elements in the back are biomorphic and fluid in shape which is the representation of structures and institutions in the world and society.

Image courtesy of the artist

'Split Intent' 2022


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