Photos

The Limit(less) Project Explores Black Love Beyond the Norm with 4 Queer African Women

Nigerian-American photographer Mikael Owunna on the new edition to his Limit(less) series, '4 Queer African Women."

Back in 2015, OkayAfrica caught up with Nigerian-American photographer and writer, Mikael Owunna, to talk about his ongoing documentary photography project that explores the visual aesthetics of LGBTQ Africans in the diaspora—Limit(less).


With Limit(less), Owunna uses the visual aesthetics of his subjects, who use their visual aesthetics to navigate their cultural, sexual and gender identities, to break down the assumption that LGBTQ Africans are "un-African."

"Yes, we face terrible homophobia and transphobia both inside and out of African immigrant communities, but our lives are multidimensional and we are still people," Owunna says to OkayAfrica contributor Jennifer Sefa-Boakye. "We still laugh, experience joy, love and more. We find ways to express ourselves and live out full lives as LGBTQ Africans despite these ostensible “limits” on our existence, and our visual aesthetics can be a key part of that."

For Owunna, his new edition to the project, 4 Queer African Women, pushes a vital dialogue beyond what society discusses about love.

"It pushes a really important conversation about black queer love, black love beyond a heteronormative binary, love beyond a romantic dimension (between friends and within community) and also power in love for one's blackness and specifically, black womanhood," he tells me via email.

Photo by Mikael Owunna.

In this series pictured below, get to know:

Mai’Yah, 18 

Country of Origin: Liberia

Pronouns: She/Her, They/Them

LGBTQ Identity: Queer

Instagram: @mai.yah

Tumblr: @Dwelah

Badu, 20

Country: Born and raised in NYC

African Background: Ivory Coast

Pronouns: She/Her

LGBTQ Identity: Pansexual, Androgynous

Instagram: @baduizm_adu

Tumblr: @needstoescape

Yéwándé (aka Yéwá), 18

Country of Origin: Nigeria (USA-born)

Pronouns: She/Her, They/Them

LGBTQ Identity: Queer

Instagram: @therealyewande

Tumblr: @blkpoetress-ye

Amadi, 18

Country of Origin: Nigeria (Born in the US)

Pronouns: she/her

LGBTQ Identity: Genderqueer, Queer, Androgynous

Instagram & Snapchat: @kidandfro

UPDATE (05.09.2017): Mikael Owunna seeks to take the Limit(less) project to Europe—learn more here.

[oka-gallery]

Credits

Photographer: Mikael Owunna

Headwraps: @WrapsByJames

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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