As a kid, Nigerian-born photographer Michele Chukwuma Owunna knew of no other LGBTQ Africans personally, and he saw none represented in popular culture or mainstream media. His family and community hardly spoke of people being queer, and when they did, the tone was nearly always one of disdain.
“Growing up being queer and Nigerian, I felt like I could not exist,” Owunna told HuffPost.
The artist was 15 years old, living in the United States, when he was outed as gay to his family, who blamed America and Western culture for his sexual identity. They proposed he return to Nigeria twice a year, hoping the culture would “cure” Owunna of his desire.
“They thought that since being gay was ‘un-African,’ re-exposing me to my culture would drive the gay out of me,” he said.
Three and a half years ago, Owunna decided to respond to this injurious claim ― that queerness and African-ness can not and do not overlap ― by capturing portraits of individuals who are proudly both African and queer, gay or transgender. “I’ve been fighting to reclaim these two parts of my identity for myself,” he explained. “To create a queer African home for myself and others where we can be LGBTQ, African and whole.”
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