New Internationalist

Celebrating Queer African Women

Today women around the world will be celebrating their sisters, from ordinary women on the ground to activists and famous thinkers. Very few of these women will be LGBTIQ and gender non-conforming women.   

Below are six women from Africa and the Diaspora who I believe deserve special mention.

Fannyann Eddy.

Fannyann Eddy was a lesbian activist from Sierra Leone who was murdered in Freetown on 29 September 2004. The 30-year-old was murdered while working late at the offices of the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association (SLLAG) in Freetown, which she founded in 2002. After repeated stabbing, her neck was broken. Fannyann fought for queer human rights despite numerous threats and great personal danger. Thanks to her efforts, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people in Sierra Leone have begun to achieve visibility.  

Selly Thiam.

Senegalese/Haitian/American activist and journalist Selly Thiam is the executive producer behind the documentary None on Record, a transnational audio of oral history of Africans who identify as LGBTQ.  Talking about the importance of speaking out and documenting queer stories from Africa and the Diaspora, South African Notisha Massaquoi said, referring to Fannyann: ‘I felt my silence enabled her to be murdered in that way…’

The more of us who speak, the louder our voices will become.

Zanele Muholi.

Zanele Muholi is South African photographer and visual activist who has spent her working life communicating and document queer women’s lives in Southern Africa.    

Chosen Few’.

The lives of many of the ‘Chosen Few’ soccer team from Soweto which was founded by Pumla Masuku have been photographed by Ms Muholi who explained the importance of sports to LGBTIQ persons.

‘However, it is still elite queers with important biographies and expert English who get the right to talk about developing and empowering township Africans while feasting on catered, sponsored food. Excluded from the agenda are the majority of gay sports men and women in this country who speak Afrikaans, Zulu, Venda or Xhosa in our daily communication with the world, and who are prevented from participating in many international coordinating events by their joblessness, poverty, and lack of formal and extended education. These are our issues as lesbian, gay, trans and intersex black people.’

Valerie Mason-John.

Performance poet, playwright, actor and writer Valerie Mason-John (Queenie) is of Sierra-Leonean heritage, was born in England and spent her early childhood in Dr Barnados before moving to live with her mother. By the time she was 14 she was living on the streets. Her expansive work is always challenging and highly original and includes the novel Borrowed Body, a story of a Nigerian girl abandoned by her parents and growing black in Britain.

Brown Girl in the Ring is a solo performance in which Mason-John tackles racism and empire through a satire of the seat of British colonialism – the Queen…

‘Brown Girl in the Ring is a wholly successful marriage between traditional narrative and the avant-garde. Valerie Mason-John, the writer and solo performer, explores racism and bigotry without ever using the words racism and bigotry. It is dreamlike, filled with haunting images, but also connected by both logic and a grasp at accessibility. Mason-John, a charismatic performer, does invite us to lose ourselves in the show. “Sweep it under the carpet,” she says, again and again, and talks repeatedly of her shrink. Thank you, Dr Freud.’

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About the author

Sokari Ekine a New Internationalist contributor

Sokari Ekine is a Nigerian social justice activist and blogger. She writes an awardwinning blog, Black Looks, which she started in 2004, writing on a range of topics such as LGBTI Rights in Africa, gender issues, human rights, the Niger Delta, Haiti and Land Rights. She is a IRP 2013 Fellow.

Read more by Sokari Ekine

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