Decolonizing Queerness In Africa: An Interview With Decolonial Thoughts
By Ada Kalu
June 30, 2023
Earlier this year, Uganda passed their Anti Homosexuality Act restricting freedom of speech on queer rights and criminalizing perceived queer acts. The document is clear to highlight that homosexuality is not illegal but homosexual conduct is; whatever that means. Punishment includes the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’. Uganda joins similar countries in its ranks of queer suppression laws. Its insidious wording leans into a widely populated belief that there is a gay agenda.
The gay agenda, much like gay panic, is both synonymous and in opposition with queer liberation, depending on which side of the fence you’re on. Uganda, like most countries in Africa, leans heavily on religion and tradition to push the rhetoric that homosexuality, an all encompassing word for the LGBTQIA community, is unafrican. This specific bill also taps into the common religious phrasing ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’. A cop – out that allows hatred fester because for queer communities, ‘I am technically my sin’. This introduces the work of Decolonial Thoughts. A Nigerian duo using words and art to address, platform and challenge the ‘colonial traditions that define contemporary culture.’ Their work is rooted in imagining what could be when so much of our current climate is anti love. It is in love we find community and find healing.
Starting Decolonial Thoughts
‘Theo and I both did this course in uni called law and race. It was like Oh, my God, the world, connections and, you know, just kind of talking about like how the world works, why things are the way they are. And being able to actually articulate it and read about it was very, very, I would actually say, life changing for both of us.’
For founders Toluse and Theo, a catalyst for DT was the interconnectedness of systems of oppression and the understanding that tools of liberation are not far removed from us. ‘The point we’re trying to make is that everything is kind of connected, especially for the marginalized.’ DT first as exploratory has expressed a need to combat harmful structures while creating timeless pillars to educate alongside spaces to interrogate and ask the hard questions of why, how, what does this mean and what can it be? This speaks to the current state of the world, a clear visual of how many things are not working. ‘Everything feels stifling, I just feel like the world is choking us in so many new ways. And the more you learn about it is like a new form of like, this is how they’re attacking you.’
The goal of DT then is to ‘create a dream and imagine a world of play and laughter and a world where we move away from universalism’. An understanding that there are other ways to move through life, and they’re worth exploring.’
Queerness in Africa
‘I found that queerness meant limitless and that meant you know, just impossibility. I love the whole idea of being queer because to me it means numerous possibilities’
January 2024 will mark a decade of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPHA) in Nigeria. Similar to the Ugandan Act, the bill calls for the criminalisation of ‘same sex amorous relationships’ and used pointed language including the aiding and abetting of same sex marriage and imprisonment for queer advocacy and association. This, combined with Nigeria’s overt religious leanings creates unsafe and apathetic conditions for queer Nigerians who are excluded on multiple fronts such as during the EndSars protests in 2020.
Discussing queerness and queer spaces is a 2 part conversation. One steeped in the reality of being queer in Africa and one a vision of what queer spaces could look like. Queerness is ‘being gangster’ and for Theo, it speaks to the bravery of being true to self daily, when considered other. For Toluse, queerness is freedom from rules and expectations, ‘I wonder what life would look like for all of us if we weren’t so stuck up on heteronormative ideas. We all restrict ourselves so much.’ It builds to a much bigger picture that is once again linked to colonialism and religion and the domino effect it has. Once again, everything is truly connected.
Ultimately, the vision of queer spaces in Nigeria especially is blurry at best. For DT, there will be no accepted queer spaces in the country until people understand queerness. Queerness in Nigeria involves a deep unraveling of Nigerian history and acknowledging queerness as inherently African. Ideal queer spaces in Nigeria are almost utopia like, where queerness simply is, and queer spaces are everywhere.
Decolonizing The Future
‘A decolonized world is one that priorities human lives over profit. We would consider what solution would have people at their best and work from there.’
The basis of most religions is love as the ultimate connector to the divine. We are at our best and thus more god-like when we teach and act with love. The systems and operative measures we currently have are created, established and executed against colonial measures. Decolonization as the antithesis of this is centered around love and a decolonized future is not one thing but like queerness allows for endless possibilities. A decolonized future is:
- Appreciative of different knowledge forms
- Access and accessibility
Downtime with Decolonial Thoughts
The duo will be launching their joint podcast, Downtime with Decolonial Thoughts on Monday 3rd July, 2023. Their first episode will explore gendered norms and the impact of patriarchal ideas of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ on relationships.
The podcast will serve as an extended platform for marginalized experiences and perspectives and for exploring new possibilities. In the words of bell hooks, the duo aim to have discussions challenging Western “Imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy”. DT do not claim to have all the answers but will try to provide all the answers. The aim is to foster open conversations and inspire alternative ways of thinking, believing that systemic change begins within our minds. It will be available on Spotify and Apple Music.
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