How Pride Afrique Created a Conversation Space for Queer Progress

. . . by resisting the narrative that Africa can only be ground zero for the violation and destruction of queer persons.
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Johannesburg Pride 1990. Credit: GALA.

Johannesburg Pride 1990. Credit: GALA.

August 2020: a coalition of activists decided to create an online space to celebrate the lives and work of LGBTQI+ Africans. They called it Pride Afrique. From August 14 to August 16, the event brought together writers, editors, journalists, filmmakers, and academics to discuss contemporary and historical issues in queer and feminist rights, economic justice, new storytelling, allyship, community work, mental health, and family life. The organisers were two trans artists: the filmmaker Ms. Noni Salma, who produced the event, and the singer and model Miss Sahhara, who led communications.

Among the guests were the writers Chike Frankie Edozien, Chibuihe Obi, Unoma Azuah, Jude Dibia, and Open Country editor-in-chief Otosirieze Obi-Young. There was the artist Seyi Adebanjo. And there were the activists Gabriel Alves de Faria, Matthew Blaize, Bisi Alimi, Danilo da Silva, Faith Pansy Tlakula, former Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), and Ishmael Bahati Omumbwa, Executive Director of Persons Marginalised and Aggrieved in Kenya (PEMA). Also in attendance were major political figures: Festus Gontebanye Mogae, former President of Botswana; Mounir Baatour, former presidential candidate in Tunisia; and Kgalema Motlanthe, former President of South Africa.

In this interview, Open Country speaks with David Ikpo and Kehinde Bademosi, both founding members of Pride Afrique.

UZOMA IHEJIRIKA FOR OPEN COUNTRY:

What necessitated the birth of Pride Afrique?

DAVID IKPO AND KEHINDE BADEMOSI:

Pride Afrique was born from the need to articulate the pan-African advancements of queer persons and groups and to foster a culture of a balance of stories, by resisting the narrative that the African continent is and can only be ground zero for the violation and destruction of queer persons. 

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UZOMA IHEJIRIKA FOR OPEN COUNTRY:

Pride Afrique attracted a large number of queer African activists, organizations, and allies. How did the team come together to execute it?

DAVID IKPO AND KEHINDE BADEMOSI:

Pride Afrique began like a glowing splint and the fire kept spreading across the forest, tree after tree. Kehinde started by creating a Facebook Messenger group involving a few individuals and emails with other contacts to discuss his preliminary ideas. Following this, we had some Zoom meetings, sent out email pitches to stakeholders, and published our invitation for our first town hall meeting. The town hall was attended by various queer rights stakeholders from across the globe, and the floor opened for brainstorming sessions as regards themes, structure, and content in plenary and in subgroups. More Zoom meetings followed and then the technicalities of content creation began.

African organisers from around the globe stepped up to drive the goal. Artists sent in media submissions to be featured. Screenwriters, lawyers, academics, journalists, health experts, filmmakers, civil society people, the clergy and other people of faith. Queer experts and professionals were open to working around very tight schedules across several time zones for recorded Zoom panel conversations and storytelling sessions.

We set out to record very brief sessions, but so many issues and interests came up that, usually after the recording stopped, participants stayed back to discuss further, and share contacts, personal stories, and other resources. At the end of the content gathering, we were shocked by the amount of resources that had been gifted to Pride Afrique.

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Pride Afrique was very media-, design-, and post-production heavy. We got a lot of references and a lot of individuals volunteered their time and expertise to drive this. It was really an organic process, with individuals who believe in the power of three-dimensional Afro-queer representation, coming onboard with their talents, skills, stories, resources, networks, and institutional affiliations.

UZOMA IHEJIRIKA FOR OPEN COUNTRY:

The festival was strictly on virtual spaces like your website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel. Without COVID-19, would it have been held in a physical space?

DAVID IKPO AND KEHINDE BADEMOSI:

Yes, there are possibilities of a physical Pride Afrique, but it is not the priority at the moment. Just as the plague of colonialism gave us the gifts of the English, French, and Portuguese languages to connect with the world, the pain of the pandemic inspired the realization that physical distance, or the absence of a safe physical space, does not have to get in the way of advancing queer rights in Africa.

Physical presence is important because of the value of contact in resisting dominant homophobic narratives and in fostering empathy. But the virtual space grants us the opportunity to create a globally accessible reference framework for ongoing and future Pan-African queer rights advocacy interventions.

The idea that “Africa” is only a physical space is getting more and more inaccurate as the world recalibrates, and Pride Afrique is vested in sustaining and consolidating an Afro-queer platform that reflects this.

UZOMA IHEJIRIKA FOR OPEN COUNTRY:

Given the largely homophobic atmosphere in many African states, did you worry about the safety of participants?

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DAVID IKPO AND KEHINDE BADEMOSI:

The safety of participants is an important consideration in the operation of Pride Afrique. But as opposed to a hierarchical establishment, Pride Afrique is a horizontal one with a central articulating core. The articulating core is sensitive to the risk incidental to visibility. We are all equally responsible for each other’s safety.

UZOMA IHEJIRIKA FOR OPEN COUNTRY:

What were the challenges organizing Pride Afrique 2020?

DAVID IKPO AND KEHINDE BADEMOSI:

Pride Afrique 2020 was the first of its kind on the African continent. It was as aesthetically driven as it was technical, intellectual, and emotional. For an initiative that ran alongside tight work schedules and across several time zones in a world whose work force was reorienting itself due to the pandemic, the consultation, design, and execution of Pride Afrique was both exciting and challenging on every level.

The workforce for Pride Afrique, the talks, designs, stories, arts, were all given gratuitously. At some point, close to the set date of broadcast, we were technically challenged by the lack of some expertise we did not have on our team. The Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action Archives came through to secure this for us. It was a big upgrade that tied everything up nicely.

Visit prideafrique.org.

Uzoma Ihejirika
Uzoma Ihejirika is a staff writer at Open Country Mag. He is a staff writer at Folio Nigeria. He is an editor for the AfroAnthology Series and a copy editor for Minority Africa. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming on Lolwe, Music in Africa, and Bakwa Magazine, and can also be found on Medium.

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