A Black man with a red shirt and a grey backpack is looking at a photo exhibition on a bright blue wall. In one photo, a Black person has a rainbow-coloured heart painted on his face.
© A Wa Nibi
A Black man with a red shirt and a grey backpack is looking at a photo exhibition on a bright blue wall. In one photo, a Black person has a rainbow-coloured heart painted on his face.
© A Wa Nibi
A Wa Nibi, We Are Here
Installation / Visual Arts

Reimagining History

Towards A Decolonial Queer Vocabulary

Past dates

The paintings, videos, and photography work presented in REIMAGINING HISTORY celebrate what it means to be queer in Nigeria and Africa today. It alludes to the layers of identity that Queer Africans and Queer Africans living in the diaspora wear daily. In Nigeria, where it is punishable by up to 14 years in prison for openly identifying as LGBTQ+, the works of Adebowale, Ajah, Emezi, nwao, Obochi, and Seidu show us resistance in Nigeria and the diaspora. They combine throwbacks to traditions that embrace gender and sexual diversity with the expressions of young people living in a globalized world. Va-Bene’s “Rituals of Becoming” installation addresses the political injustice, violence and objectification that queer and trans people face worldwide, especially in Ghana. Where religious fundamentalists and those deceived by colonialization might say that queerness is UnAfrican, these documentations refute that.

For the longest time, museums, newspapers, and magazines have favoured white, western photographers to document the lives of Africans; this exhibition shows that Africans are doing it for themselves. But, documentation takes resources that are not equally distributed. LGBTQ+ movements operate within the structures of an oppressive global capitalist world, and it is vital to acknowledge this. The exhibition also includes selected images from “Where Love is Illegal”, an extensive photographic work by Robin Hammond. These images were made in collaboration between the characters portrayed and the photographer, a white man. They include records of essential activists who have been fundamental in fighting for the rights of LGBTQ+ people in places like Uganda, which just passed a law colloquially known as “Kill the Gays”, a piece of legislation poised to become one of the harshest anti-LGBTQ+ bills in the world. Where colonization introduced laws and practices that endanger the lives of queer and trans-Africans, global movements can be instrumental in raising money for activists, artists and freedom fighters. Despite the harsh realities of being queer and trans in African countries or being Black, Queer and Trans in the western world, the artists participating in “REIMAGINING HISTORY” choose to stand in their power by placing a portion of the complex themes explored, in a time capsule for posterity.

Exhibition Tour

In relaxed atmosphere, the Nigerian curator Matthew Blaise and the academic Martha Sambe will guide you through the exhibition REIMAGINING HISTORY. Thus, as an audience, you have the opportunity to ask questions about the artworks and to learn something about the genesis of the project A Wa Nibi. Especially visitors from the African Diapora and queer people as well as their allies are invited to gather and debate together.

  • Artistic Direction: Ifeatu Nnaobi
  • Production: Zinzi Samuels
  • Dramaturgy: Laro Bogan
  • Supported by: The TURN2 fund of the German Federal Cultural Foundation, The Federal Representative for Culture and the Media, Kampnagel and Obodo

Alexandra Obochi

“Celebrating Queers” began in 2021 to highlight, celebrate and document queer and non-binary Nigerians living in Nigeria. It serves as a way of using art to tell the stories of the LGBTQIA+ Nigerian community. My happy place celebrates black Nigerian love between Lade and Phina, a transmasc non-binary queer and queer cisgender woman. Despite the harsh realities of being queer in Nigeria, they found each other and celebrate their love daily.

Alexandra Obochi [b.1999] is a multidisciplinary creative with skills spanning many creative disciplines, including photography. She is a visual artist creating emotive portraits filled with bright colours, technical exploration and experimentation with shadows and natural light. Alexandra's work is focused on representing and documenting queer living in Nigeria and how new communities are formed bound by love, fear, and loss of blood families. The other part of Alexandra's work is inspired by the culture and realities of being an Igbo woman and the uplifting of Black and African skin. Alexandra is a part of the Black Women Photographers and Nigerian Photographers hub.

Chikamara Ajah: After School Special (Yearbook: Class of 2022) and Pt2. (First period)

This video project plays on time, following the idea of history repeating itself. This is shown through the early 2000s aesthetic used in filming and styling. The video project recreates a classroom scene and portrays the chaos in class when the teacher is not looking. With every student playing stereotypical roles, for example, the class clown, crybaby, ring leader etc. The videos render a fun portrayal of the education system in the artist’s universe. Something that was rarely ever seen– Black female and non-binary bodies playing main character roles on TV screens. In every 2000s movie I watched, the closest they had to diversity was one black represented. I wanted to change this and create a tv show I would have loved to watch growing up.

Chikamara is a Nigerian, Berlin-based 23-year-old multidisciplinary artist who creates worlds that question her place in society. Her work also tackles personal questions that she feels others could relate to, such as diversity, gender, sexuality and education. Much of her work comes from personal experience and the stories of others. The two main mediums Chikamara enjoys using are painting and videography.

nwaobiala: a new memory (2020)

A new memory’ is a collection of Nigerian Queer and gender marginalised memory, refuting gender and sexuality marginalisation as a static aspect of Nigerian culture. Quilting together archival footage and present-day literary, audio, and visual media, it narrates a full and truthful Nigerian history that colonisation, queerphobia, and gender marginalisation attempted to destroy. While recounting an obscured history, ‘a new memory’ argues that though Nigerian Queer and Trans people have always existed, we deserve a life that is grander than what indigenous Nigerian culture allows. Currently, we are demanding it. ‘a new memory’ serves as a vehicle of revelation, critique, and demand.

nwaọ is a Nigerian-American, queer and agender multi-disciplinary artist and archivist. Their work critically analyses and reimagines Black physical and spiritual beings within African historical and cultural contexts. nwaọ drives conversations about queerness and gender identity within the collective, cultural, and contemporary memory of the African Diaspora. They are a 2020 Bakanal de Afrique Artist Fellow and a 2020 Kolaj Institute Collage Lab Artist. nwaọ is the former bassist for the band Something African. He uses they/them and he/him pronouns.

Rachel Seidu: “you be man so?”

A tribute to Area Scatter, one of the few Nigerian men who shattered gender boundaries and portrayed a somewhat accurate representation of its fluidity. Here, Seidu dresses her subjects in Yoruba attire to show that effeminacy is not foreign to us, and her characters are posed unconventionally to express femininity. Seidu's use of sepia imitates our past and reminds us that effeminacy has been with us for longer than we may remember. By breaching the limitations of the perceived identity of males with photography, Seidu beckons us to look deeper and see new meanings to masculinity.

Rachel Seidu (b.1997) is a visual artist working across photography and film to create intimate, emotive portraits reflecting diverse stories and realities. Her practice involves technical exploration and experimentation with shadows, contrast and natural lighting. In 2022, Seidu photographed the cover of the 2022 edition of “We Need New Names”, the Booker-shortlisted novel by Zimbabwean author NoViolet Bulawayo. She was also shortlisted for the James Barnor and Yaa Asantewaa Prize in 2022. Selected group exhibitions include “Let’s take a moment” (2022), O’da Gallery, Lagos, Nigeria, Sòrò Sókè (2022); Foto Wein; Young Contemporaries Exhibition (2020); Rele Gallery, Lagos, Nigeria and Boundaries of Reason(2021), Abuja Photo Festival, Abuja, Nigeria. Seidu is a member of Black Women Photographers and the African Photojournalism Database. She lives and works in Lagos.

Robin Hammond: “Where Love is Illegal”

The team behind Where Love Is Illegal believes stories can connect people, transform opinions, open minds, and change policies. Led by photographer Robin Hammond and his non-profit organisation Witness Change, Where Love Is Illegal documents and captures personal testimonies of survival from the LGBTQI+ community around the world.

Those photographed through Robin’s global storytelling campaign choose how they want to pose, what to wear and how to present themselves. They handwrite their stories and letters to be shared with the world. The project also invites the LGBTQI+ community to share their stories through a global social media campaign and local anti-stigma campaigns developed with the Witness Change team.

Robin Hammond has dedicated his career to amplifying narratives of marginalised groups through long-term visual storytelling projects. Career recognition includes the winning of two World Press Photo prizes, the RF Kennedy Journalism Award, six Pictures of the Year International Awards, the W.Eugene Smith Award for Humanistic Photography, the recipient of six Amnesty International awards for Human Rights journalism and being named by Foreign Policy as one of the 100 Leading Global Thinkers. He is the founder of Witness Change, a non-profit organisation dedicated to advancing human rights through visual storytelling.

His work on discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community worldwide, Where Love Is Illegal, has become a popular social media campaign. It has been exhibited around the world and featured in many publications, including on the cover of Time Magazine and National Geographic. The work led to him addressing the United Nations in 2018 to promote a campaign to end the extrajudicial execution and torture of LGBTQI+ individuals.

His work on mental health conditions and neurological disorders,In My World, has influenced governments and corporations to consider the rights of some of the most vulnerable members of the planet. Robin is a National Geographic Explorer and contributing photographer.

Oluwatamilore Chinyere Osho: “Bisexual Anxiety” and “Lullabies for Dreary Days”

Olúwatamílọ́re Ọ̀shọ́ is a writer, poet and creative director from Lagos, Nigeria. Her writings negotiate sensuality, familial dynamics and identity. Her works have been published/forthcoming in online literary mags, namely, The Roadrunner Review, Olney Magazine, ANMLY and elsewhere.

Tyna Adebowale: “tell am as you see am.” (2018)

Over the past seven years, Tyna Adebowale’s practice has responded to Nigeria’s ‘Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act’ of 2014, a religious and politically motivated law that has affected the rights of women and queer people alike. 'tell am as you see am' is one of the more direct works from the multi-medium fluent artist. Her declamation is delivered by the film protagonists Kunbi and Onome, Jand and Brian, who make their case in a down-town market and taxi ring, commenting on the pervasiveness of the matter and, as a result, on the resilience necessary to overcome it, “there is a rising statistics of women who want to raise their children alone. Trauma-free. Stress-free. Drama-free!”

Tyna Adebowale is a multimedia artist from Nigeria. Adebowale studied painting at Auchi Polytechnic in Edo state and has gone on to explore video, performance, and installations in her art practice. She is an award-winning visual artist who has participated in group exhibitions in Nigeria, the Netherlands, Brazil, Cameroon, South Africa and Ghana. She has attended workshops and artist residencies at the Foundation for Contemporary Art, Accra; the Nigeria Brazil Cultural Centre in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, the Bakassi Peninsul’Art in Limbe, Cameroon; the University of Cape Town, South Africa; Center for Contemporary Art, Lagos, the African Artists Foundation, and ArtHouse Foundation Artist Residency. Adebowale uses the body as a signifier and tool to trace history and advocate for visibility. Adebowale counters imposed influences, rejuvenating knowledge, and possibilities to appreciate alternative ways of existence.

Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi [crazinisT artisT]: Rituals of Becoming

Rituals of Becoming includes a site-specific installation, photography and video, and live performance. In a special room called “The Red Sanctuary”, the artist performs her “Becoming”.

The show stages the artist’s work in a theatrical setting that highlights the ritualistic dimension of her performances. By simultaneously projecting recorded performances and stills from the live performance, the exhibition questions the assumed distinction between real and virtual, gender identity, class privilege, political injustice, violence and objectification of humans.

Born in 1981 in Ho, Ghana, Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi [crazinisT artisT] works internationally but lives in Kumasi, Ghana. As a performer and installation artist, crazinisT investigates gender stereotypes, prejudices, queerness, identity politics and conflicts, sexual stigma and their consequences for marginalised groups or individuals. With rituals and a gender-fluid persona, sHit employs sHits own body as a thought-provoking tool in performances, photography, video, and installations, ‘life-and-live-art’ confronting issues such as disenfranchisement, social justice, violence, objectification, internalised oppression, anti-blackness, systemic indoctrination and many more.

Yagazie Emezi

Donning a red latex tube dress, JP Blush strikes a pose in a clothing store in Lagos, Nigeria. He is an openly out-drag queen with dreams of building a drag community for himself and others. As a gay man, JP lives outside the conservative gender norms of Nigeria, where homosexuality is punishable by 14 years in prison. Utilising social media and a growing fan base, he uses his drag performances to push against the violent obstacles homophobia presents at home. "Performing drag means everything to me. When nothing else makes sense, it's a fantasy I get into. It's how I express myself, and it's freedom."

Yagazie Emezi is a Nigerian artist, and self-taught photojournalist focused on stories surrounding African women and their health, sexuality, education and human rights. Having worked extensively across Africa, Yagazie also covers stories on identity and culture, social justice, climate change and migration. Her art practice uses photography and sculpture to construct visual critiques of Nigeria's socio-political state and the roles media play in it, pulling from history and current events. She began her journey in 2015 and has since worked with Al-Jazeera, New York Times, Vogue, Newsweek, Inc. Magazine, TIME, The Guardian, Washington Post, National Geographic, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Weather Channel, New York Times Magazine and several not-for-profit organisations.