Half of this week’s featured blogs/websites are the kind that have already amassed a sizeable audience. One of the goals of A O Re Q is to find the kind of blogger that has a few readers to engage with and thus little motivation to update regularly. They eventually stop writing (or find greener pastures), so there is little that falls under my radar for a week, like this past one. If you want to give your self-promotion-averse friend/favourite blogger a shout-out, please drop their URL in my Twitter mentions. Meanwhile, I will be protesting very soon with a #ThinkPieceWishlist, an exercise in the grossest kind of nerdy en-(ternet)-titlement.
Growing up I had no language to talk about sexual identity; even the concept of having a “sexual identity” was a revelation in my late teens. Although visibly gay while growing up, there was no concrete articulation of my gayness as a sexual identity have often struggled with articulating sexual identity terms like gay, lesbian, bisexual transgender and intersex (LGBTI) in my mother tongue.
The post examines the lack of names for sexual minorities in South Africa’s indigenous languages. Some say that it is an indication that alternatives to the norm are foreign to the continent but Lwando Scott asks, instead, why the names have not yet been coined. In a language like IsiXhosa, there is a fairly simple borrowing process where lexical items are borrowed from English and have an i- prefixed to the them. However, the English ones have not always been present in the English lexicon either and it is extensive writing in the language that necessitated the coinage of these new names resulting in “lesbian”, “homosexual”, “transgender” and so on. Scott then identifies the scarcity of academic writing in languages like IsiXhosa as having not allowed for the coinage of new names in those languages to label sexual minorities.
An aside: try to read this paragraph without thinking of the title of NoViolet Bulawayo’s novel, We Need New Names.
“My Body,” a track from Bongo Country , merges Setswana and English hooks to create a slice of dance-floor slaying EDM that pulls from club sounds as varied as Cher, ’90s pop, and South African Afro-futurists like Spoek Mathambo. While Kat prefers to write songs in English, her Setswana lyrics often speak insightfully to her personal journey as a Motswana artist, an identity she claims is inextricable from her work.
Africa’s a Country introduces Kat Kai Kol-Kes, a trans* musician from Botswana (article originally featured in Afropop Worldwide). Kopano Mmonatau also provides a brief analysis of Botswana’s relatively tolerant cultural climate from which Kat Kai Kol-Les comes. It makes a deeper analysis for another time irresistible. What is also irresistible is exploiting this opportunity to enquire if queer artists have a preference for left-field, experimental sounds in their music, particularly those heard in underground electronic scenes. The analysis is not meant to be deterministic but offers a possible perspective on how Kat Kai Kol-Les’s trans* identity and her choice of sound inform each other.
My Body starts with the funky bass you would expect from the experimental pop act, Little Dragon. There are a number of South African queer artists that can be shoehorned alongside her. Umlilo gemerously incorporates electronic production into the music. Nakhane Toure’s music, although more on the “organic” sounding spectrum, is a unique hybrid of influences jazz, funk, rock and afropop. So as to not overshadow the purpose of this post, I will expand elsewhere on how left-field (electronic) music – not to be confused with “EDM for bros” – is available as refuge for queer identities and embodies queerness itself.
Healing powers were summoned to quiet that extra-crispy brand of brutality reserved especially for queer Africans. We licked the death wish within the body’s hidden caverns, our skilled African tongues glossing over bruises from beatings—pipes, stones, Daddy’s belt while your mother watched in silence. We seduced delicious poetry from crushed glass inserted deep within a young lesbian’s tight vagina so her rapist could make her “less gay” to make her more of a “traditional African woman” who preferred “real African men” to masculinity in women.
Nick Mwaluko’s writing yanks you by the collar and covers quite a range of (mostly tragic) queer experiences in Africa. The piece gives perspective on the ways that communities have been more violent to queer bodies than HIV/AIDS has been commonly known to afflict them. In intimate moments when the virus is potentially transferred between bodies, the writer finds something more humane and precious than the vicious prejudice that one has to face from society. The flipping around of traditional symbols of light and darkness – the moral institutions of heteronormative society vs dreaded queerness conflated with disease – is coupled with the frantic shuffling of both positive and negative attributes and states around the word more – more fake, more safe… Nothing is absolute; it can only be experienced in the relative nature of more or less. It captures how “the world is committed to making queer Africans crazy”.
The piece won the first annual Christopher Hewitt prize in the Creative Nonfiction Category.
As the NEST collective, we believe that Kenyans and Africans – like all human beings have multiple, complex identities, histories and aspirations. we think it is important to represent these complexities to challenge the anti-intellectual, anti-minority, hyper-religious, simplistic, puritanical, revisionist and conformist movements that are sweeping our country and the continent.
By now, some of you would’ve heard of The Stories of Our Lives, the anthology film documenting the lives of queers in Kenya that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. As they explain in the post, this massive sort of exposure was a surprise. Their post takes us behind the scenes and shifts the spotlight onto NEST, a multimedia art collective based in Nairobi. The interest they show in LGBTI rights sounds like it would be worth following them to look out for future projects.