Photo courtesy of Temmie Ovwasa.

Interview: Temmie Ovwasa Embraces the Complexity of Queerness In Nigeria

The singer tells us what creating one of Nigeria's first openly gay albums—E Be Like Say Dem Swear For Me—means to her.

Defiance remains a common denominator in the art of people from a marginalized group no matter how unintended. Back in 2016, veteran singer Olamide announced the signing of Temmie Ovwasa to YBNL after a discovery on social media. Ovwasa has since threaded her way to critical acclaim with singles like "Jabole," "Afefe," "Bamidele," and more.

Following her exit from the label in December 2020, Ovwasa announced the release of her debut album dubbed E Be Like Say Dem Swear For Me, a pidgin expression of "I feel cursed." The 12-track project embodies a seamless progression from rage to eroticism, passion, and rebellion.

Since being outed by a Nigerian tabloid, Ovwasa has embraced this development at full throttle, living her truth while wielding her craft to shed light on the intricacies of being a queer woman in Nigeria. Nigeria is already known for its discriminatory laws against its LGBT+ population. In 2014, the country passed the Same-Sex Prohobiton Act (SSMPA)—a law that has encouraged illicit harrssaament and assault on not just gay people but also people perceived as gay.

Ovwasa, while admitting a "fear that comes with the territory" that she's learned to live with, speaks to OkayAfrica about openly singing about a woman's body, being a queer public figure in Nigeria , her album's reception by Nigerian media and championing authencity of self.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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