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Our Tongues Still Move While We Sleep: A Dedication to Spiritual Remembrance and Erotic Existence

A photo essay by a South African visual artist and photographer on the spiritual significance of la bruja.

I’ve always been curious to explore the spiritual significance of la bruja.


It’s played a large imaginative role in its cultural and literary utterances of female representation, repression, and respectability politics, and the symbol of the witch is one that has consistently been relegated to deflated stereotype.

This is a collaboration between black and brown womxn, and femmes in particular, that looks at what the language and imagery of la bruja is and has existed as, outside of white-western superficialities—how it iterates and re-imagines sexuality and complexity within black and femme identity, and the power of feminine independence and association.

I think a lot of us are tired of seeing black womxn’s sexuality consistently gazed at through an imaginary trash-or-cash lens. It’s exhausting when your body is consistently depicted as a site for either trauma, fucking or cash cropping.

I was inspired to collaborate photographically using this idea to bring to life a piece representing black womxn & femmes outside of the exhausted, binary imaginings of our bodies.

And in particularly, I was interested in the resurgence of spiritual deities and the fruition of cultural/ancestral rootedness and imagery as resources for recognizing our existence. That’s why these images are a dedication to re-visibilizing black female sexuality, erotic existence, desire, independence and imagination. It’s an attempt to try and challenge visual representations of “classic spirituality” that often excludes images of black womxn and is devoid of any expressions of sexual identity.

The womxn in my life, hold a massive influence in how I continue to see the world and engage with my physical body and my spirituality. I think sexuality is the really poignant part at which the two very messily ooze together.

If anything, I think we exist in the marrying of spiritual and physical remembrance, and the spaces where our spirituality and sexuality are conflated in how we identify with our physical and imagined bodies. The womxn who form part of this collaboration are very expressive of their spaces of belonging in this world—in intensely different ways. We worked to put together this series of images and utterances that reimagined black feminine agency and the spirit of association through la bruja.

Most of my photography comes from playing, and is inspired through play. I think it’s an important part of how I identify with my own existence, and visibility through visual remembrance.

Photo by Dani waKyengo O’Neill.

Photo by Dani waKyengo O’Neill.

Photo by Dani waKyengo O’Neill.

Photo by Dani waKyengo O’Neill.

Photo by Dani waKyengo O’Neill.

Photo by Dani waKyengo O’Neill.

Photo by Dani waKyengo O’Neill.

Photo by Dani waKyengo O’Neill.

Photo by Dani waKyengo O’Neill.

Photo by Dani waKyengo O’Neill.

Photo by Dani waKyengo O’Neill.

Photo by Dani waKyengo O’Neill.

Dani waKyengo O’Neill is South African visual artist and photographer from Johannesburg. Her work mainly focusses on intimate conversation/revelations of representation, identity and gendered agenda through experimental parody, image language in a post-internet space.

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Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Image

#EndSARS: 1 Year Later And It's Business As Usual For The Nigerian Government

Thousands filled the streets of Nigeria to remember those slain in The #LekkiTollGateMassacre...while the government insists it didn't happen.

This week marks 1 year since Nigerians began protests against police brutality and demanded an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The #EndSARS protests took the world by storm as we witnessed Nigerian forces abuse, harass and murder those fighting for a free nation. Reports of illegal detention, profiling, extortion, and extrajudicial killings followed the special task force's existence, forcing the government to demolish the unit on October 11th, 2020. However, protestors remained angered and desperate to be heard. It wasn't until October 20th, when soldiers opened fire on demonstrators at Lekki tollgate in the country's capital, Lagos, that the protests came to a fatal end. More than 56 deaths from across the country were reported, while hundreds more were traumatized as the Nigerian government continued to rule by force. The incident sparked global outrage as the Nigerian army refused to acknowledge or admit to firing shots at unarmed protesters in the dead of night.

It's a year later, and nothing has changed.

Young Nigerians claim to still face unnecessary and violent interactions with the police and none of the demands towards systemic changes have been met. Fisayo Soyombo the founder of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism, told Al Jazeera, "Yes, there has not been any reform. Police brutality exists till today," while maintaining that his organization has reported "scores" of cases of police brutality over this past year.

During October 2020's protests, Nigerian authorities turned a blind eye and insisted that the youth-led movement was anti-government and intended to overthrow the administration of current President Muhammadu Buhari. During a press conference on Wednesday, in an attempt to discredit the protests, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed hailed the Nigerian army and police forces for the role they played in the #EndSARS protests, going as far as to say that the Lekki Toll Massacre was a "phantom massacre with no bodies." These brazen claims came while protesters continued to gather in several major cities across the country. The minister even went on to shame CNN, Nigerian favorite DJ Switch as well as Amnesty International, for reporting deaths at Lekki. Mohammed pushed even further by saying, "The six soldiers and 37 policemen who died during the EndSARS protests are human beings with families, even though the human rights organizations and CNN simply ignored their deaths, choosing instead to trumpet a phantom massacre."

With the reports of abuse still coming out of the West African nation, an end to the struggle is not in sight. During Wednesday's protest, a journalist for the Daily Post was detained by Nigerian forces while covering the demonstrations.

According to the BBC, additional police units have been set up in the place of SARS, though some resurfacing SARS officers and allies claim to still be around.

Young Nigerians relied heavily on social media during the protests and returned this year to voice their opinions around the first anniversary of an experience that few will be lucky enough to forget.



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