After mob attack, Senegal blocks gay-themed art show

Photo from Andrew Esiebo's "Who We Are" project showing images of gay men in Nigeria. (Photo courtesy of AndrewEsiebo.com)
Photo from Andrew Esiebo’s “Who We Are” project showing images of gay men in Nigeria. (Photo courtesy of AndrewEsiebo.com)

The government in Senegal has shut down an art show focusing on homosexuality in Africa.
The action came after  a group of religious fundamentalists stormed the Dakar art center that housed the exhibit, breaking windows and exterior lights.  The mob threatened to attack again, but the government acted to close the exhibit before more violence ensued.
The exhibit, on display at the Raw Material Company, a non-profit art centre, was part of an informal program that was coordinated with the 11th Biennale of Contemporary African Art.
Collage by Kader Attia (Photo courtesy of Le Monde)
Collage by Kader Attia (Photo courtesy of Le Monde)

One focus of the attack was the work of French-Algerian artist Kader Attia, currently based in Berlin, who presented “Collage, 2011,” an hour-long video about the lives of transsexuals in Algiers and Mumbai.
In response to the attack, Attia commented, “Ultimately, fear of the Other has struck once again.”
The show, titled Imagerie précaire, visibilité gay en Afrique (Precarious Imaging: Visibility and Media Surrounding African Queerness), also included works by Jim Chuchu, Andrew Esiebo, Amanda Kerdahi M., and Zanele Muholi.
The aim of the exhibit, according to curator Ato Malinda, was to shed light on a persecuted African minority and to examine the African media’s often denigrating coverage of same-sex-couples. Homosexual intercourse is  illegal in Senegal and in 37 other African countries. In Senegal, the punishment is a fine and one to five years in prison.
“The time is ripe to talk about homosexuality in Africa,” Malinda had said.
But Le Monde reported that Mame Mactar Guèye, vice-president of Senegal-based Islamic organization Jamra, said that the proposed cultural event was “propaganda for unions which are against nature. [It] has been detrimental to our morality and to our laws.”
The exhibit included works by:

  • Zanele Muholi, an activist and photographer from South Africa — photos of black lesbian and transgender women. “They might be our daughters or the girl next door,” Malinda said. “It is important that people see these women in this light.”
  • Amanda Kerdahi M. of Egypt and the United States — videos of Kerdahi  interviewing 100 women in Cairo about their sexualities while smoking with them.
  • Andrew Esiebo of Nigeria — photos of gay men from Lagos.
  • Jim Chuchu of Kenya. His “Pagan” series explores the idea that homophobia was a concept introduced by missionaries and colonials.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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