Over the last few decades, a large number of anti-LGBTQ evangelical pastors from the US and other Western countries have arrived in African countries. After centuries of colonization, this latest wave of pastors, along with deeply conservative Muslim imams, have led to a rapid rise in violent homophobic and transphobic sentiments in many African communities. This violence is not only physical, but cultural, psychological and emotional as well. Same-gender loving people along with those not ascribing to the Western gender binary are now decried as “un-African,” and that rhetoric is a direct legacy of Western colonization and anti-buggery laws on the continent. Being thought of as “un-African,” many LGBTQ Africans can not only have strained relationships with their families and communities but between their LGBTQ and African identities as well.
Navigating the tension between their LGBTQ and African identities extends to LGBTQ Africans in diaspora as well. Like their counterparts on the continent, LGBTQ Africans in diaspora are also demonized as “un-African.” For those living in the West this rhetoric is particularly virulent, as other African immigrants weaponize this rhetoric to say that we have been “corrupted” by our exposure to the West. All of this despite the fact that people we would now identify as “LGBTQ” have existed in African communities since precolonial times, with more and more recent scholarship (e.g. the great collection Boy Wives and Female Husbands) emerging proving as much.
Considerable work has been done documenting the effects of radical Western-driven homophobia (although less-so transphobia) on the lives of LGBTQ Africans within Africa, including the documentaries God Loves Uganda (Uganda), Veil of Silence (Nigeria) and Born This Way (Cameroon) and the incredible portraits and documentary work on black lesbian South African women by Zanele Muholi and the series “Country Girls” by Sabelo Mlangeni. To date, though, besides the work of Rotimi Fani-Kayode and None on Record there has been little work done documenting the experiences of LGBTQ Africans in diaspora. This necessitates projects like Limit(less) to add to this body of work and connect the dots between the experiences of LGBTQ Africans on the continent and those across the diaspora.
Being physically displaced from our home countries and experiencing additional displacement due to homophobia, transphobia, racism, xenophobia and discrimination in our own communities that label us as “un-African,” LGBTQ Africans in diaspora stand at the crossroads of multiple identities and experiences due to the devastating effects of colonization in our home countries. Limit(less) explores how we navigate our identities in the face of all of these forms of displacement.
In the process, Limit(less) seeks to answer one key overarching question: How do LGBTQ Africans in diaspora visually express and explore their African identities through their fashion and style?
In answering this question, Limit(less) seeks to visually deconstruct the artificial colonial binary that states that one cannot be both LGBTQ and African. Because the truth of the matter is that we are Africans too, despite any ahistorical colonial notions and lies which try to state otherwise.