Category Archives: Africa – Creative Arts

Bernadine Evaristo – Mr Loverman

Diriye Osman interviews Bernadine Evaristo author of Mr Loverman

In a revealing interview with Salon, Donna Tartt once said, “I had a fairly well-known editor tell me that The Secret History would never be published because no successful book by a woman had ever been written from the point of view of a man, and that I would have to change it to a female narrator.”

Although it’s tricky for both male and female writers to write from the point of view of the opposite gender, there have always been a number of tremendously talented and successful female authors who have not only risen to the challenge but, in doing so, have completely demolished deeply-embedded social codes that should not have existed in the first place.

British-Nigerian novelist and poet, Bernardine Evaristo is not only a master of literary gender-bending but she’s also adroit at subverting well-worn tropes from slavery to stifled sexuality in a way that feels new, visceral, vital. Although Evaristo has always been an innovative stylist, her latest novel, the critically acclaimed, award-winning smash, Mr. Loverman, is her chef d’oeuvre; a masterful dissection of the life of a 74 year-old, British-Caribbean gay man. It is a book about secrecy and self-protection, freedom and fear, history and the future, family and faith, repression and renewal.

For Evaristo, this extraordinary act of ventriloquism was necessary. “I knew this was an explosive mix for fiction”, she says. “Not only is black homosexuality all but invisible in British fiction, but the idea that a septuagenarian is actively gay is potentially very controversial.”

“I like the challenge of writing beyond my own culture (I’m not Caribbean), gender, age, sexuality and so forth, but it does mean that I have to work hard to create authenticity with my characters. To make them totally believable and convincing.”

Evaristo, who originally trained as a stage actress, nurtured her writing talent by penning roles for black actresses “because few parts existed for us in the early 80s.” She dropped acting but fuelled the fire to keep writing. “The magic of writing,” she says, “the emotional, intellectual and imaginative connection I feel to it, is addictive. My influences are wide and varied, and certainly many writers inspired me to tell my own stories when I was very young – Gloria Naylor, Ntozake Shange, Keri Hulme, Toni Morrison, Michelle Cliff, Audre Lorde, Alice Walker.”

With the recent anti-gay legislation in Nigeria and throughout a depressingly large part of Africa, does she feel there’s been enough of a response from African writers in terms of exploring the issue of homosexuality in fiction or non-fiction?

“I’d say not,” she says. “It’s still quite a taboo subject in many communities and certainly not enough people speak out. You’re probably one of the very few writers writing black African stories with gay characters. When I chaired the Caine Prize for African Fiction a couple of years ago we shortlisted a gay story by Malawian writer Stanley Kenani. Lola Shoneyin’s super novel The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wivestouches on lesbianism, as did Monica Arac De Nyeko’s Caine Prize winning “Jambula Tree”, which won the Caine in 2007. But essentially, when you can list such stories on one hand, there is a problem. I wrote a piece for The Guardian about the long history of pre-colonial homosexuality in Africa when the recent anti-gay legislation was passed in Nigeria, my father’s homeland. We need more voices out there, gay or straight, writing stories that include homosexual characters.”

Aside from her work as a novelist and poet, Evaristo teaches creative writing at London’s Brunel University, where she spearheaded the creation of the prestigiousAfrican Poetry Prize, which offers a powerful platform for gifted poets on the rise.

Part of what makes Bernardine Evaristo such an important cultural figure is that she’s an intellectual who’s unafraid to take creative risks. Every book that she has written doesn’t feel so much a progression as a complete re-invention of style, subject matter and genre. Once you add a hearty dose of compassion and energetic forward-thinking to the mix, what you get is not only an artist who repeatedly resists status quos and shoots straight for the jugular but a bonafide literary rebel with a cause. This in itself is worthy of celebration.

Bernardine Evaristo’s Mr Loverman (Akashic Books) is out now as is Diriye Osman’sFairytales For Lost Children (Team Angelica Press).

This piece was originally published on the Huffington Post

Interview with Dorothea Smartt, Brit born Bajan literary activist, live artist & poet

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Dorothea Smartt is a literary activist, live artist, and an established and respected poet with an international reputation. Born and raised in London she is of Barbadian heritage. Described as a ‘Brit-born Bajan international’, her work typically bridges the islands of Britain and Barbados, effortlessly shuttling between local and global scenes as it weaves a diasporic web. With two full collections, Connecting Medium and Ship Shape [Peepal Tree Press] her twenty years of experience, includes been engaged by the British Council and travelling to Bahrain, South Africa, Egypt, and Hungary. In 2013 she was keynote speaker at the Frank Collymore Literary Endowment Award, the premier literary award in Barbados. She is an honorary team member and advisor to Cambridge University’s Caribbean Poetry Project. She is Co-Director of Inscribe, a national writer development programme, Associate Poetry Editor of “Sable Litmag” and guest co-editor of their LGBTQI issues, and an Advisory editor to “Scarf”, a global arts & literature magazine. In her forthcoming third collection she continues to rework standard narratives, this time examining same-sex relationships and cross-gender experiences as push-pull factors behind ‘West Indian’ émigré workers on the Panama Canal.

In this interview, Dorothea underlines her relationship to her Bajan voice as a critical medium for her poetry. She reflects on her South London birth and upbringing in a Bajan household and the process of finding her voice and creating her place in the world as a Black girl in Britain. In the course of discussing her depiction of specifically located characters and their particular voices within her poetry collections, she repurposes historical and mythological figures, from Medusa to “Samboo” whom she renames Bilal. She engages us in her practice of historical “healing, restitution, recovery, re-membering and re-calling” in the excavation of overlooked and erased voices in past and present contexts. Her philosophy as a cultural practitioner is revealed through her treatment of cultural narratives as they impact individual and collective memory and consciousness, and implicate themselves in geographical landscapes. Her work re-inscribes a gendered, multiply located, lived and mythologized individual, familial and collective healing space.

She concludes by reading the introductory poem to her latest publication, “Reader, I Married Him & Other Queer Goings-On”, which was launched in Barbados at the Bim LitFest held on May 15-17, 2014.

Kagendo Murungi is a Kenyan writer, video producer and activist with a background in international sexual and gender rights advocacy. Her writing has been featured in the Queer African Reader (2013), Kwani? 07 (2012), United Nations Days of Vesak/International Association of Buddhist Universities Conference Journal (2012), Yellow Medicine Review (2011/2010) Sing Whisper Shout Pray: Feminist Visions for A Just World (2002), Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social & Political Black Literature & Art (2002) and a range of other publications and multimedia productions.

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The ‘Diversity Test’: Is the London LGBT Film Festival a white-only affair?

The ‘Diversity Test’: Is the London LGBT Film Festival a white-only affair? by Christina Fonthes

Rag Tag (2006) directed by Adaora Nwandu
Rag Tag (2006) directed by Adaora Nwandu

Now in its 28th year, the highly-anticipated London Lesbian Gay Film Festival returned to the Southbank this year boasting a new name:  BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival.

The festival, which is headed by the British Film Institute (BFI), is one of the longest running festivals of its kind in the world, and is much-loved by Queer folk and cinephiles alike. This year’s festival-goers were treated to three gala films -Hong Khaou’s Lilting; Sophie Hyde’s 52 Tuesdays; and Antonio Hen’s The Last Match -, over 50 feature films from 20 countries, as well as a number of expositions and panel discussions.

The head of BFI’s Cinemas and Festivals, Australian-born Claire Stewart, said the rename was to

“reflect the increasing diversity of the programme and the people who identify with and embrace it”.

Alarm bells immediately set off whenever I hear that one of our formidable British institutions decides to be more ‘diverse’. The term diversity’ is usually followed by words such as ‘multicultural’, ‘celebrate’, ‘embrace’, ‘heritage’, ‘inclusive’, ‘equality’and other mundane and unoriginal terms and phrases that have been recycled so much by politicians, the media and arts organisations that they have become meaningless.

The festival received criticism for removing the words ‘lesbian’ and ‘gay’ from the name, and has been accused of appealing to a straighter and younger audience. As a black queer woman, the biggest qualm, for me, remains the issue of race. From the organisational structure to the audience that attend the screenings, the festival is, and always has been, a celebration of white Queer culture.

The ‘Diversity Test’

Out of the 122 features, shorts and archive films that were screened at the festival, only six have two or more (named) main characters that are black:

  • The Abominable Crime – a documentary exploring homophobia in Jamaica
  • Veil of Silence – a documentary exploring homophobia in Nigeria
  • Trans Lives Matter! Justice for Islan Nettles – a moving document of a community vigil for Islan Nettles, a victim of transphobia
  • Born This Way – a documentary about homophobia in Cameroon
  • Fashion Girls – a documentary about a group of gay men and transwomen in Brazil talking about their lives and their dance troupe
  • Big Words – a feature film about a group of black American men who used to be in a hip-hop band

And of the six films, four are about black homophobia/transphobia, and two are about black people singing and dancing.

From this short list, it is safe to say that the BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival is inline with the mainstream media’s agenda to keep black faces invisible. And like with all the other media organisations in the UK, when it comes to the representation of black people on screen – the representation we have become so accustomed to it seems, at times, futile to challenge it – we are presented with the same one-dimensional images of black people who are either engaged in violence and criminal activity or entertaining (through the mediums of sports and music) – the latter usually being within the form of dancing or singing/rapping to Hip Hop and/or RnB music accompanied by images of hypermasculine men and over- sexualised women.

The LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) community are not exempt from racism (be it institutional or otherwise), and the conversation about stereotypes and the limited narrative of black people must also include them. To me, it comes as no surprise that less than five per cent of the festival’s films featured black people; but is worth noting that the invisibility of black queer faces and voices within LGBT spaces fuel the stereotype that black queers do not exist and that all black people are homophobic.

Film is a powerful medium for raising awareness of social and political issues, and whilst it is extremely important to highlight the homophobic and transphobic violence that occurs within black communities, it is just as important to ask why it is that the only narratives about black queers are centred around black homophobia/transphobia and violence.

The under-representation of black people at the festival, and within the wider context of queer cinema, says that black queer lives are not significant enough to document. I ask: where are the short films about our first same-sex school crushes? Where are the comedies about our coming-out experiences? Where are the dramas about being turned away from nightclubs because the bouncers do not think black people are gay? Where are our biopics? Where are our films about suicide, depression, sex, love, romance and friendship? Where are the insights into bisexuality, polyamory and gender-non-conforming identities?

Difficult Love by Zanele Muholi
Difficult Love by Zanele Muholi

Funding and the ‘White Saviour Complex’

The lack of representation and the misrepresentation of black queers can be attributed to two key factors: first, the lack of funding and fiscal sponsors; black filmmakers (both queer and non-queer) struggle to secure funding from sources that are easily accessed by their white counterparts. Of the few films that are out there, the majority have a black cast and a white production. The recent wave of cutbacks from the government and arts organisations will no doubt contribute to this problematic situation.

The second factor is the White Saviour Complex - although the term was originally used to refer to white Americans, its characteristics can also be applied to white British people. The white saviour complex allows the white LGBT community to view black queers not as equals facing homophobia but as an ‘other’, an oppressed people who need to be saved. This is illustrated in the news and media coverage of the anti-LGBT laws and policies that were recently introduced by Nigeria and Uganda, which differed immensely to the coverage of the draconian laws introduced in Russia. The latter is presented as a modern country whose harsh laws call for international support and solidarity with Russian LGBT people, whilst the other nations are presented as barbaric, backwards and in need of help.

As Britain and America continue to hold themselves up as the beacons of civilisation and the LGBT voice of reason, we ought to remember that same-sex marriage was only made legal last month in the UK. And, Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina and several other states in America have always had anti-LGBT laws and policies identical to those recently introduced in Nigeria and Uganda.

The need for collaboration and solidarity

In twenty years time when black queer youth are trying to find images and representations of themselves, they will Google ‘black gay films’, and the only thing that will come up will be films about violence and homophobia/transphobia. They will not know about studs and femmes; they will not know that Angela Davis and Bayard Rustin, two great leaders of the civil rights movement, were queer. They will not know about the plethora of black queer night clubs in the streets of London; they will not know of the work of fine art photographer Ajamu or his ‘Fierce: Portraits of young black queers’

Nor will they know of the music of Angolan transgender artist Titica and American rapper Leif.

Audre Lorde’s revolutionary phrase:

“For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change”

should be the mantra of all black writers, creatives and activists. It would be irresponsible of us to leave it up to organisations like the BFI, who deemed it appropriate to host a prison-themed after party, to have more representations of positive black queer and non-queer experiences. At best, all they can offer is tokenistic gestures. The only real way to challenge the absence of black queer stories and the over-representation of white male narratives is by pooling resources and collaborating and supporting one another in order to create, publish and distribute our own stories.

 

Christina Fonthes is a Manchester-based translator, and Afrofeminist blogger. Born in Kinshasa, Congo and raised in London, she is an advocate for LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer) rights. She is  a founding member of Rainbow Noir, a safe space created for and by Queer People of Colour in Manchester. Christina is a regular contributor at Black Feminists Manchester She can be found on Twitter at @CongoMuse and Musings of a Congolese Lesbian blog .  Also see her article British Film and Television: Where Are All The Black Gays?

 

***This article is published with the permission of the author and was first published on Media Diversified

Area Scatter – “”Ugwu Anya Engbulam”

From Likembe: Cross – Dressing Fun with Area Scatter

 

 

I’ve recently learned that several years ago the Igbo traditional musician Area Scatter was killed in an auto accident. Area was a performer who achieved renown throughout Ala Igbo, and even drew some international notice. One of the more memorable sequences in the acclaimed television documentary series Beats of the Heart came during “Konkombe,” the segment on Nigerian music. It featured Area Scatter, who had a performing style that was unique, or unique for Nigeria, anyway. Let’s read the description of him in the book Beats of the Heart (Pantheon Books, NYC, 1985):

 

“. . . we headed off into the forests to the hut of an infamous ‘witch doctor,” or shaman, called Area Scatter. His home was filled with bones and skulls and paintings of the power of good and evil. A muscular, humorous man, he explained how, after living through the civil war, he had gone into the wilderness for seven months and seven days and had reappeared transformed into a woman. The day we visited him he headed off, dressed in white smock, polka-dot skirt and a shamanist bone necklace, to the residence of his Royal Highness Eonunnoke to play for the local king and queen.

“Area Scatter was a highly accomplished performer on his thumb piano which was decorated with a distinctive skull and crossbones. When the king and his wife ceremonially entered and seated themselves on their thrones, Area Scatter bowed deeply and started to sing in a soft, rich voice. . .”

Of course, in the United States there are well-known transvestite performers like Ru Paul or Divine, but I understand that this sort of thing is rather odd for Nigeria, at least among the Igbo. I’m not aware of any tradition of theatrical cross-dressing in Nigeria (as for instance in Chinese opera or during Shakespearean days), nor should we assume that Area was gay. While homosexuality in Nigeria is certainly not unheard of (a reading of Hints or any of the other Nigerian “True Confessions” – type magazines should dispel that notion!), it is surrounded by so many layers of scandal and condemnation that the idea that any Nigerian would flaunt his or her gayness is, frankly, mind-boggling. So let’s just say that Area Scatter was a guy who literally marched to his or her own drummer, and leave it at that.

Uchenna, from With Comb and Razor, was kind enough to rip that segment from Beats of the Heart for us, and here it is:
When my wife, Priscilla, returned from Nigeria a few years ago, she brought back an actual Area Scatter LP, Ugwu Anya Egbulam Musical Group led by Area Scatter (Namaco ENLPS 56), excavated from a used-records shop in Ajegunle. The name of the group, “Ugwu Anya Engbulam” means roughly “The Evil Eye Will Not Kill Me.” I was originally going to put up just one track from it, then decided that posting the whole album would give listeners a better feel for the talent of this unique artist, Area Scatter.

In the first song, “Uwa Marala Okaa Ome Nwachukwu,” or “the well-known Nwachukwu does what he says he’ll do,” Area Scatter sings the praises of a certain Mr. Nwachukwu, who built a big house, who helps widows, and who pays the tuition for needy students, among other things:

Ugwu Anya Egbulam Musical Group led by Area Scatter – Uwa Marala Okaa Ome Nwachukwu

The title and refrain of this song, “Nwa Nnem Uwam Gbulam,” means “my brother, my sister ["nwa nnem," literally "my mother's child"], I am just fed up with this world”:

Ugwu Anya Egbulam Musical Group led by Area Scatter – Nwa Nnem Uwam Gbulam

This is a long testimonial to the “Great Chief” (“Eze Ukwu”) of Ngwa-Ukwu, a township near Aba. The final part of the song apparently deals with a love triangle – there was a struggle, police were called, etc:

Ugwu Anya Egbulam Musical Group led by Area Scatter – Ajelele Eze Ukwu of Ngwa-Ukwu / Akwa Goddy Uwalalula

Many thanks to Priscilla for interpreting the lyrics. Albums of Nigerian traditional music like this are not rare – thousands of recordings of Igbo traditional music alone were issued during the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. What is unusual is to find any of them outside of Nigeria. To be honest, I just love the stuff, so I will be posting more of it in the future.

If you would like to see “Konkombe,” or any of the other episodes of Beats of the Heart, you can order the DVD here.

Coffin of Love and Loss

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Via Inkanyiso – Zanele Muholi “Of Love and Loss” An exhibition

Isiphiwo Sami – An exploration of Black Queers in SA [Video]

Isiphiwo Sami a short film by Zanele Muholi – an exploration  of Black Queers in SA (Beauties)… Queerizing Public Spaces.  Produced in Durban in 2013, an exchange between black trans/ femme gay identifying persons from Durban and Johannesburg.

Femi Kuti Comes Out Against the Nigerian SSMB

From OKAY Africa, Femi Kuti joins his junior brother in condemning the Nigerian Same Sex Marriage Bill.  He responds to those who ask if Fela would have supported this bill – the answer is Fela was at best ambivialant on homosexuality but he was adamant on upholding human rights.

‘The Right To Choose Your Own Sexuality is a Human Right’ by Femi Kuti

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In the wake of the recently passed “anti-gay” law by our government and President Goodluck Jonathan, there has been much speculation online as to how Fela Kuti, my father, would react. So let us get this clear, and I will also express my own views on the matter.

My father would not support this law. He would know why the law was passed: as a way of distracting the population from the main problems we face today – poverty, lack of electricity and services, corruption, mismanagement, and so on and so forth.

That being said, Fela may have had some reservations about homosexuality itself. Who is to say? No one can speak for him. But Fela would not have had any reservations about upholding and protecting basic human rights. The right to choose your own sexuality and sexual behavior –as long as it is between consenting adults– is one such human right.

It’s a difficult topic for a lot of people in Nigeria to understand as it’s a very new issue that has never been quite public. Our culture and traditions and certain religious values make it more difficult for many to accept or understand, and it will take some time for those people to learn to respect the fundamental human rights of others to express themselves freely. People have said that being gay is “un-African” – I’m not an expert on our history, but I don’t know of anywhere the topic is mentioned in our history (I am not referring to Christian orthodoxy that was brought by non-African missionaries).

The gay community in Nigeria will have to be patient and realize acceptance of homosexuality is a gradual process which will take a very long time – especially in the north of Nigeria. But they must slowly put their case forward. They will need a lot of diplomatic support, and they will have to fight the law. They might definitely lose, but they will just have to keep on fighting for their fundamental right to live. There is no other choice.

We have to keep talking about the issue of gay rights, but it’s the government’s responsibility to take the lead to defend people’s fundamental rights. Citizens must have the right to be who they want to be.

-Femi Kuti

Nollywood What? {Poems of Resistance}

Nollywood What?

These are the stagnant waters of our time
Big names propagated away for our minds
Women rule the world men disrupted it
After, “men in love” the gay theme dried up for good
Men rule the world women helped
Help that was often
Was swept under the carpets of laughter…
Claims accused of lesbian capones fright
Sooner or later latterdayers ran the show.
What’s his name again? This isn’t about names.
Interesting isn’t?  Go see Nollywood films if you no gree

Homosexual are assumed dirty, unnatural
Heterosexuals mix sexualities for fun to
Ward off boredom hiding quiltbag pleasures.
You no hear… big men after young girls?
You no hear… de mamas after young lads?
They call it, “enjoying fresh meat,” na so dem dey.
Don’t get me started on how they treat trans affection?
When they heard this they sent another clarion call
Out: come see oh, come see oh  dis man na woman oh
Na woman; dat woman na man. Wetin dem go say next?

This dem want dat dem want till dem pafuka de
Country them go say quiltbags dey unnatural.
Which one dem dey scream, “quiltbag” oh?
Jandon naija or americana na dem know dis devil stuff
We wey dem dey call, “quiltbag” no be beddings?
Try it this way: “QUILT BAG” abbreviates us:
Queer, queersome, queerings, we are all queer
Unquestioning, undecided, unacknowledged
Lesbian, women in love with women lesbians
Trans, transexual, transgender transgender…

Bisexual, bigender, bi affection by preference
Asexual, agender, by choice and that’s fine too
Gay men, gay women, gay queer everybody
Sex sexual sobriety subtly sensual all senses
Come one come all.
Do these answer your questions? Nollywood
Can’t until it realises sex gender & sexualities
Are what make our species diversely rich…
Until we are able to address issues clearly
Until we each experience life truthfully…
What is Nollywood? Movies or madness???

Mia Nikasimo (c) January 2014

Who said it was simple? Exhibition in Dakar,Senegal

The ‘Who said it was simple’ exhibition runs from 28 January- 29 March 2014 at the Raw Material Company Gallery in Dakar, Senegal. Through a series of exhibits,  workshops and talks the exhibition explores sexualities, the treatment of minorities and marginalised people, and what it means to create societies where people can fully express their identities including around sexuality.

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L’exposition Qui a dit que c’était simple* ouvre un programme d’un an dédié aux libertés individuelles, à leur perception et à leur restriction. Le programme offrira expositions, ateliers, projections, laboratoires de réflexion et une publication finale. Qui a dit que c’était simple, le premier acte de la série d’activités, s’attache à l’univers des médias pour interroger la situation actuelle au Sénégal et en Afrique du traitement des minorités ou des marginalités.

Qui a dit que c’était simple est un programme critique ouvert commissarié par Eva Barois De Caevel. À travers un travail de mise en perspective et de mise en espace d’une abondante documentation — y compris des coupures de presse, du matériel audiovisuel et des cartes — cette exposition cherche à poser, sur la base de la production médiatique, la question du traitement des marginalités, mais aussi à poser une question plus fondamentale : comment défendre les droits humains et retrouver une structuration à laquelle la société puisse adhérer quand les conceptions des libertés individuelles, notamment en matière de sexualité, sont déterminées par un héritage complexe ainsi que par des formes contemporaines de conditionnement social?

* Le titre est emprunté à un poème d’Audre Lorde (1934-1992), auteure et activiste africaine-américaine. Le travail de cette figure importante traite de la discrimination, de la marginalisation et de la sexualité.

Coming out is scary..

 

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Coming out is scary,” Osman says, “speaking truth to power is scary, but it’s a risk that’s worth taking…The gay, lesbian and trans folks that came before us made it easier for us to enjoy the freedoms we have now. Part of how they accomplished that was by consistently (and loudly) voicing dissent. The only power I have is to tell these stories of freedom again and again. The only power I have is to lend my voice to the chorus.”  

- Diriye Osman speaks candidly to New York’s Next Magazine about what it means to be a gay African man living in the west, pride and the importance of speaking up. You can read the interview here: http://bit.ly/1edtNvj

Diriye Osman is photographed by Boris Mitkov

TO BUILD A MONUMENT

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnaili have known false teachers who swept

me beneath their words, forced me out of my

orbit to fly under the radar and made it clear

that i had nothing to offer.

and although my spirit broke

when death simultaneously broke into my heart and stole,

i spent long years laughing hard

to keep the tears away and i came to be

known by my smile and not my frown.

although my heart was dislocated

and i sat there biting my nails for nothing,

i chose to grow for the same reason that a wild flower does -

because it is alive.

in my art’s luster i watched my eyes change,

and i watched my fears die a natural death.

the universe turned,

and fanned a glow that fired me into air when

my soul, mind and universe agreed that for

i have thus far acted out my life in stages, so shall i act out my life on stages.

that for as long as i have my soul in mind,

acting will be my canvas to chalk with colorful joys

and familiar pains, both with the audacity of a passion that kills;

both with a timeless finesse.

married i remain to the art that speaks my truth and fragments,

performance that towers high like a monument untouchable.

In the Heart of the Afro-Caribbean LGBTQI Communities, Call for Contributions by Cases Rebelles and Q-Zine

Focused primarily on the African continent and experiences until now, Q-Zine, the first pan-African, bilingual art and culture LGBTI magazine, in collaboration with Cases Rebelles, is expanding its pan-African horizons! In the next issue of the magazine we are turning our inquiries to the rich and complex issues of the LGBTQI Afro-Caribbean community (taken in its widest definition!). From the Bahamas to Guyana, and from Haiti to Guadeloupe to Cuba, we want to hear from you in Creole, English, French, Spanish and all the other voices of the region. We are seeking to portray the many aspects of Caribbean LGBTQIs in this edition whether living in the region or in the Diaspora.

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Colonial history, tourism and the global misappropriation of culture often reduce the Caribbean to an exotic, clichéd image. The same goes for understanding queer issues. In this co-edition by Cases Rebelles/Q-Zine, we are looking to widen our perspectives of LGBTQI identities and expressions in the Caribbean- how is it defined, called and expressed? What are the unique traditions, inventions and inspirations of queer Caribbean communities? Are there privileged spaces, moments and cultural contexts used by LGBTQI communities?  What are uniquely Caribbean characteristics of the LGBTQI identities and what influence has the global LGBTQI movement had on the ability to exist, express, define, fight and love in the Caribbean? What is the influence of migration? Of tourism and the perception it imposes on the region?

We invite you to share by writing, your opinions, essays, critiques, literature, short-stories, photo-essay, paintings, poems, music, dance, fashion, art, news or other contributions on the theme “Afro-Caribbean LGBTQI cultures” in this edition of Cases Rebelles/Q-Zine that aims to paint the queer Caribbean panorama as diverse as the Caribbean region itself- both locally and throughout its Diaspora. We also welcome your audiovisual contributions.

Cases Rebelles is a collective of Black, African and Caribbean women and men. Since 2010, Cases Rebelles seeks to challenge and shake-up thinking and perspectives about and from Afro-Caribbean through it monthly web-radio programming and publication of the same name.

Since 2011, Q-zine, the only Pan-African LGBTI art and culture digital magazine aims to create and to be a forum for any type of expression, any topic or idea, and all shades of opinion relevant to LGBTI lives.

Cases Rebelles and QAYN invite to send your contributions to the co-editors at contact AT qayn-center.org and contact AT cases-rebelles.org.

Deadline : 10 February 2014

Storm [Poem by Mia Nikasimo]

Storm

The tremors vibrate through
This isn’t a storm. No wind.
Nothing just the door slam
Six door slams and I wonder

Why, why, why this thunder?
“You are not a woman,” as if
Your mess was all there was.
Why is my heart in my throat?

Six door slammed one after the
Other… Slam, slam, slam. And
More… slam, slam, slam like a
Bloody oversized metronom

Even the walls trembles each
Time the door is slammed then
A sudden pause followed by a
Slam, slam, slam. A headache

Emerges. my heart pounds mad
That’s what hatred causes aloud?
Then I remembered your words
“Get noise blocking headphones.

No one can handle such abuse…
The most foolhardy collapse…
You are no different. We all hurt.
You are no different, gorgeous… ”

Mia Nikasimo (c) December 2013

Queercide: Campaign Against Violence Against Women – Why We Must Document

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In 2012 there were 10 murders of black lesbians, gays and transgender people in South Africa. In Uganda, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which includes the death penalty and makes LGBTI people and anyone or organisation that supports or helps them, into illegal citizens, has once again been tabled in Parliament and once again delayed – all in the space of a month. There is no guarantee that it will not resurface in 2013. In Nigeria, the “Prohibition of Same Sex Marriage Bill” has been passed unchallenged by both Houses and is awaiting a final reading in the House Chamber.

In South Africa, Queercide, like other social phenomena is being driven by a set of social conditions in this case, homophobia, religious fundamentalism, government inaction and community silence. In Uganda and Nigeria, religious fundamentalism and a weak and disinterested civil society are the driving and enabling forces respectfully. These expressions of the logic of domination are the punishment for daring to digress from arbitrary norms.

It is in this context that Zanele Muholi’s Faces and Phases exhibition opened at the Goethe Institute in Johannesburg on 27th November, 2012. Faces and Phases is an ongoing body of work which began in 2007 with the intention of creating an archive of Black lesbian lives and ensuring black queer visibilities. Faces expresses the person and Phases signifies the stages of those expressions. It is a personal experience and journey for Muholi as a visual activist and the people she photographs.

What I love about Zanele’s work is the strength of performance, the way the faces breathe. The portraits are in different poses. One can hear the voices of those who look directly into the camera. But still, there remains an untold story behind each portrait. Visible yet partially invisible. Invisible yet partially visible. I like that. Photographs capture a moment in history. W.J.T. Mitchell wrote a book “What Do Pictures Want?” I think we should ask this question when we look at the photos in Faces and Phases. People and places are layered and I would prefer it, if we could take the time to unpack the layers instead of diving in and ripping everything apart. Read my story and create your own through your imagination. The same goes for Zanele’s photographs.

From the beginning the impetus for Muholi’s work has been on the one hand, to disrupt sexual and gender norms whilst also highlighting the intersectionality of gender, sexual orientation, race and class both in homophobic acts of violence and the response to these acts of violence. Faces and Phases III consists of 60 black and white portraits and as Muholi points out there is a reason ‘there are no smiling faces here’ – their visibility has become a dangerous one. One that has lead to rape, torture and murder including some of Muholi’s collaborators. The constitutional right to be who you are and choose visibility over the closet, becomes a symptom of vulnerability. Homophobia, hate and inertia become the destructive powers that ridicule the protection of the constitution.

In her exhibition Isilumo Siyaluma* Zanele uses her own menstrual blood as a way to begin to articulate and bridge the pain and lost felt as a witness to the pain of ‘curative rapes’ suffered by many young black lesbians in Zanele’s own community. The first piece is a thumb print thereby establishing her truth and her presence as part of her community. Other photo montages are a ‘mothers cry’, ‘the judge’, and the ‘defendants in the dock’. We are all witnesses and we must make our own judgements on how to respond
Zanele’s work has been exhibited outside South Africa and the continent and this too has implications of meaning in terms of black bodies and bodies which may have been violated being exposed in white colonial spaces. Queer black bodies under the gaze of closeted racism loaded with notions of black sexuality and desire -always we return to Zanele’s question “What do you see when you look at me? ……?????????

Campaign against violence against women highlighted by Zanele in this video

A young man and his goat – A photographic story

From a collection by Cristina Garcia Rodero, Rituales en Haiti Miami Dade College Museum of Art + Design?

Rituales en Haití  Photographs by Cristina García Rodero
Rituales en Haití Photographs by Cristina García Rodero

 

 

 

“Today It’s Me” …… A story of Ugandan Legend, Philly Lutaaya

TODAY IT’S ME ENCORE Performed by Donald Molosi, Botswana   [Buy tickets]

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This is the true story of the legendary Ugandan musician Philly Lutaaya, whose soulful AfroPop rhythms united a generation of Ugandans. Inspired by his continent and its people, Lutaaya kept faith in his beloved motherland in his music even while he was a struggling musician abroad in Sweden. This epic piece chronicles his transformation from an entertainer to a musical activist after he learnt about his own personal tragedy. “Today It’s Me” is an exploration of courage, passion and tragedy, featuring Philly Lutaaya’s exotic, riveting music. Best Performer, Dialogue ONE Festival 2008. Best Short Solo, United Solo 2011. Poster: Maya Lama. Recommended for: adults, elderly, ethnic community (African).

2013 United Solo, the world’s largest solo theatre festival, presents 121 productions! All shows are staged at Theatre Row: 410 West 42nd Street, New York City. TICKETS, with a price of $18, are available at the Theatre Row Box Office and online through Telecharge at www.telecharge.com. You may also call Telecharge at 212-239-6200. When placing your reservation, please provide: the FESTIVAL name (United Solo Theatre Festival), the name of THEATRE (Theatre Row – The Studio Theatre), and the specific DAY and TIME of SHOW you would like to see.

*The ENCORE tag marks productions with solo artists who performed successfully at the Festival in the past and came back again to perform this year.

 

More from Donald

Donald Molosi @ActorDonald

The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo [Film]

Indiegogo Fund Raiser for “The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo

We are waiting for this film, we want this film, lets help get this film made – Donate Here

The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo explores the artistic contributions of one of Africa’s foremost woman writers, a trailblazer for an entire generation of exciting new talent, including internationally acclaimed Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie. The publication of The Dilemma of a Ghost in 1965 at the age of 25 made Aidoo the first published African woman playwright. In Anowa (1970), she demonstrated her courage by addressing slavery, a very sensitive topic even today in Ghana. Her most recent work is Diplomatic Pounds and Other Stories.

Ama Ata Aidoo
Ama Ata Aidoo

The film follows Aidoo over a course of a year during which she travels to her ancestral village in the Central Region of Ghana and is feted at a Festschrift orqanized by friends and colleagues at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She then attends the premier of her seminal play about the local African experiences of the slave trade, Anowa, performed by UCSB Theater.

This hour-long documentary locates the multi-textured variety of Aidoo’s writing in an historical and cultural context, and charts her pivotal journey through moments of inspiration in a life that spans seven decades, from colonial Ghana through the tumultuous era of independence, to a more sober present day Africa where nurturing women’s creative talent remains as difficult as ever.

This documentary celebrates Aidoo and her work and brings it to new audiences in a way that will inspire future generations.

Who we are: We are a team. Director/Producer is Yaba Badoe an award-winning documentary filmmaker and writer based in the UK. Her latest film, The Witches of Gambaga, won the 2010 Best Documentary Award at the Black International Film Festival 2010 and the 2nd Prize, Documentaries at FESPACO 2011, and was nominated for the One World Media Award, Best Documentary in 2012. Producer is Amina Mama, one of Africa’s leading activist feminist scholars. She founded the journal Feminist Africa, has taught courses in African cinema, co-produced The Witches of Gambaga, and is currently on the faculty of Women and Gender Studies at University of California, Davis. Margo Okazawa-Rey, a feminist scholar activist, is Associate Producer and leading this campaign.
What We Need & What You Get

Courageous. Controversial. Compelling. Truth-teller. Ama Ata Aidoo is a poet, novelist, and feminist. Women make up fewer than 10% of the world’s film directors, so it’s a struggle to tell the story of any woman, especially an African woman. So we are asking you to help us raise $45,000 to tell Aidoo’s story, the fascinating tale of an iconic writer whose work both captures the specificities of history, culture, and geography and transcends them.

The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo is almost there. After two years of fundraising, excitement, negotiation, and filming on location in Ghana and California, the good news is that we’re half-way through the journey and we need your help. We are trying to raise $45,000 (two-thirds of the budget) here on Indiegogo. The money you help us raise will pay post-production costs: editing, music clearances, colour grading, and a sound dub. We are confident that the final 1/3 of the budget will be raised from organizational donors like the African Women’s Development Fund and the Global Fund for Women.

When you donate, you will be acknowledged on the Donor Wall of our website and receive project updates. In addition, you can receive a signed postcard, t-shirt, limited edition DVD, Aidoo’s books, and other memorable perks.

Kiini Ibura Salaam author of Ancient, Ancient

I have been meaning to read Ancient, Ancient so appreciated this discussion between  Sofia Samatar and  Kiini Ibura Salaam - I especially like her answer to the question ‘who influenced her? and the push to draw on comparisons.

 I recently finished Ancient, Ancient, Kiini Ibura Salaam’s award-winning short story collection. She was kind enough to take the time for a chat with me. Influence, writing teachers, and self-promotion–enjoy! (Kiini’s comments are in bold.)

The first thing I’m interested in asking about after reading Ancient, Ancient is music. Your work strikes me as having a real musicality about it–stories like “Desire” and “Of Wings, Nectar, & Ancestors” read like voices singing to each other. Can you say something about the relationship between your written words and sound?

I don’t feel like I “got” a piece I’m writing if I can’t get the rhythm of it. I’m not sure if the rhythm is always musical, but each story has it’s own rise and fall, rhythm and tone of sentence. Sometimes the rhythm is what gets me into the story, like “Desire”—I heard the rhythm of the story, well actually the rhythm of “Faru, Faru running through the bush” first, then I built the story from there. But in many cases, it takes multiple drafts to get to the rhythm. Sometimes it feels like I’m digging and digging trying to get down to the heart/bones of the thing. Any word will do, but only the right words will sing–will make the story slip like silk so that you’re not aware that words are carrying you though, you’re just aware of the rhythm and flow of the story and the tales it tells. It’s a very intuitive process because each story differs in the rhythm and tone it calls out for.

I do love music and I love lyrics. I post random song lyrics on Facebook a lot because I’m listening to music as I work and loving the feel of the words as they’re nestled inside the music. Something about that interplay is intriguing to me. You know what I think, I think I enjoy conveying more than the logic of the sentence. I enjoy conveying the feeling of the moment through word choice, of course, but also through the play of words, how they fit together and run on or stop short. When I haven’t achieved that, reading through my work is like hitting snag after snag. When I have, I just roll through the story feeling that, yes, I’ve conveyed this moment well.

I’m also wondering about influences–what you read, what you like, which writers you feel are good at “conveying the moment.” Such a boring typical-interview-question but I really do want to know. :)

I avoid this question like the plague. Partly because my memory is so bad and I don’t want to leave anyone out. It’s so embarrassing to draw a blank when asked a completely reasonable question, but I have the memory of a child–a thing is only on my mind as long as I’ve recently engaged with it, other than that, details, facts, even the value of things fade from memory. This includes books. I read mostly whatever I can get my hands on and whatever my book club is reading. I also collect books that I want to read or should read but usually don’t read because my free time is my novel writing time and my train commute time (when I would be reading) is my editing time.

I think I draw more influence from who writers are, their identities, how they make their way through the world, how they embody their unique voice–than looking at someone’s craft. You could pick 10 master writers and they would all do craft differently–yet they each have something to teach, no matter how close or how far their writing style is from yours. I actually think I absorb everything I read and if there is value there, I absorb it knowing that it will help inform my choices as a writer. I could rattle off a list of names of writers and/or books that stand out to me because of their voice and the depth and plushness of the writing, but are they influences? I don’t know.

Take Octavia Butler for example. Amazing, peerless writer who is not afraid to carry you into the darkness of the human condition. I am inspired by the depth of her intelligence and her unwavering eye in dissecting humanity, her ability to do social commentary, and the fierce hold she maintains once she has a reader in her clutches. I want to do all that with my writing, but I don’t think it makes any sense for me to emulate her to get there. Her writing, her craft is hers. I believe my journey–and the journey of all artists–is to learn how be you–to improve your expression of yourself, to burnish and strengthen your own unique voice. We’re all different facets of expression and I think good writing just inspires me to do better, pushes me to find a way to be a better version of myself–so I can one day be on par with amazing artists, rather than lust after the possibility of being like them.

That’s such a great answer! And okay, can we talk more about this? Because I’m really curious about the question of influence. I’m the kind of person who can rattle off names (Michael Ondaatje, Marguerite Duras, Assia Djebar, etc etc forever), and let me tell you, those people are INFLUENCES. I mean influences to the point where I feel I’ve absorbed the rhythms of their writing–like those rhythms are now part of my DNA. But this doesn’t feel like emulation, although I also emulate those writers. It’s not like I sit down and think “Now I am going to write like X.” I agree with you that their craft is theirs. It still gets into me, though, through rereading–through adoration, really. Does that make sense to you? Or is your experience completely different?

This conversation is really pushing me to figure out my discomfort with this question. I think the truth is we don’t really know what all that influences us. I mean we’d like to say that the things we like influence us, but in could also be the things we sort of like, not the things we adore. Case in point, last year I (I think it was last year), I read Wildwood by Colin Meloy. It was a fun rambunctious read (I talk about it briefly here as part of my January “pleasures.”) Fast forward to this year when I’ve been challenged to write a story for the upcoming Long Hidden anthology for Crossed Genres. I was influence by the film Faubourg Treme to do something around the civil rights movement–of which there are many. The common history suggests there was slavery, Jim Crow, then Civil Rights, when actually there were multiple civil rights struggles—it’s been a long cyclical journey. In that film, it talks about black people integrating horse and buggies, then the streetcars in New Orleans, and it talks about the organizing and social disobedience around Plessy v. Ferguson. So I do some research, identify a time period and historical figure I want to write about and then a writer friend shares a term “calenture,” it’s a fever/delirious state that sailors suffered from where they imagined the sea was the earth and they plunged to their deaths (at least that’s how my friend defined it). Then that gave birth to the character I used and this alternate plane she created that was a suspended stretch of rolling land. She’s a swamp witch who, when she goes down to earth, has these swashbuckling adventures–I decided to make it swashbuckling because if the maritime roots of the word calenture. It’s possible that I drew from Wildwood in imagining new adventures around every corner of the swamps because that is what happens in Wildwood. But did I? I don’t know. But if you asked me to list my influences, I would list the things that I thought were uber-amazing and masterful, but it’s highly unlikely that those are the only things that influenced me. It’s like plucking out the bits of genetic code that we like and ignoring the others. The influences are vast, random, and spontaneous–I can still see and site random scenes from Tamora Pierce books that I read because I found them on the bookshelf at my job. Is she an influence? I actually wrote a story based on Marguerite Duras’ Malady of Death. I loved the destabilizing, urgent, but also disconnected nature of the narrative. I took it as a template to tell a story that was urgent but I was emotionally unprepared to get any closer to. There are iconic writers that move me–and I could tell you who they are–but is that the same as those that influence me and can I honestly say that I can pluck out the threads of who has influenced me and who hasn’t? I don’t believe I can…….Continue on Sofia Samatar

Haiti: Occasional Musings 21, Environmental cost of construction boom [Photo Essay]

The construction boom in Haiti driven by Diasporan money, UN [MINUSTAH] and government funds is destroying the local environment around the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Hillsides are being cut away and river beds decimated to feed the huge demand for rock and gravel for personal homes, warehouses and post earthquake reconstruction by the government – in short everything but low cost housing.

I took these photos of the river Grise at Fatimah on the edge of Pernier where I live. In 2010 you could cross the river and take one step up to the village which you can see in the distance. Now the river bed has been dug as much as 30ft deep in some places forcing villages to make a steep perilous climb after negotiating the river which at times can be deep and fast flowing [See last photo]. Neither the government nor the companies have bothered to build steps or a platform for local people to access their village.

The mining of the river bed takes place 24/7 and there are four companies operating in this location. They pay a government tax for the privileged of destroying the river. The construction boom has also brought an influx of monster trucks in various states of disrepair plowing the narrow streets and blowing out thick black smoke.

Earlier this year local residents, mainly small family farmers who rely on the river for their irrigation and water for animals, held a series of protests against the mining of the river and the trucks which operate day and night. One person was shot and killed by the police which for the moment ended the protests.

In years to come Haitians will again be blamed for destroying their rivers and hills much in the same way they are blamed for destroying the trees but when you investigate it is not the people but big business and corrupt governments who are to blame.   Writing in 1968,   Marie Vieux-Chauvet’s [born in 1916] “Love Anger Madness: A Haitian Trilogy”, describes how foreigners, forced Haitian peasants to cut down their trees for sale or starve.  We don’t hear this story.    Rather its always poor Haitians cutting trees for firewood whereas thousands of trees were cut by corporate greed and government corruption.  The farmers knew this would destroy their land and tried to protest, but their lives were worth less than the trees!   Then charities arrive with food, clothing and the bible to save those whose land and livelihood were destroyed.

The irony is that whilst the real river beds are being eroded, the construction of roads which usually lasts for a cycle of two or maybe three weeks is making the roads into river beds with deposits of silt and pebbles mixed in with flood water such as the road from Frere to Clericine via Tabarre.

Grise at Fatimah

Grise at Fatimah

Grise at Fatimah

Grise at Fatimah

Grise at Fatimah

Grise at Fatimah

Grise at Fatimah

Farmland at Grise

Grazing goats at Grise

Village access to river
This article was supported in part by the International Reporting Project.

Feminist Chronicles: Tsitsi Dangarembga

One of the very first African Novels I enjoyed reading and actually took the time to walk into a bookshop and purchase was Nervous Conditions. Considering it was the first novel published in English by a black Zimbabwean woman, it was a special treat and a treasure indeed. I was 13 years old when I first read it. My appreciation of literature was quite limited then but then I re-read the novel at 18 and I have read it two more times and each time I am amazed at the beautiful style in which this novel was written. I am not surprised it won the African section of the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 1989 because the way in which it depicts the dynamics of education, poverty, race, class, gender, and identity crisis is nothing short of intriguing. The author is none other than novelist, playwright, filmmaker and activist Tsitsi Dangaremba (pronounced da-nga-re-mbwa).

 

The Book Nervous Conditions

 

This woman who partially studied Medicine at Cambridge University, got a degree in Psychology from the University of Zimbabwe, studied Film direction from the University of Berlin and holds a PHD in African Film from the Department of African Studies at the Humboldt University in Berlin is a woman of many talents and vast experience.Tsitsi’s uniqueness as an artist lies in how she uses art and culture, not just for entertainment but as a tool for progress and development.

 

One of the things for which I owe her great respect is the film Neria. She wrote the script. That film was and continues to be one of the strongest instruments for effective community education on the importance of writing a will. It is also pivotal in campaigning for the respect of laws governing succession and deceased estates to protect women and children. Neria is a story of a widowed woman who loses her material possessions and her child to her brother in law in a typical traditional fashion. The brother in law, Phineas, confiscates all of Neria’s wealth and abducts her daughter claiming that as ‘Sarapavana’ a Shona word referring to a guardian, he has the obligation to take care of her. All that Phineas wants is the property; he does not care about the child. Only through her friend does Neria regain all these things. I remember reading reports that the man who played Phineas, the evil brother in law, in the film was assaulted in real life in Harare by incensed citizens who had been moved by the widow’s suffering and angered by his ruthless greed and malevolence.

 

Neria, the protagonist in the film Neria

 

Another one of Tsitsi’s unforgettable works is the film Everyone’s Child which she directed. The film portrays the struggles of HIV orphans, illustrating the trials and tribulations that the poor children had to undergo without their parents to support them.

 

Tsitsi’s work has won her numerous awards. In 2006 she was the recipient of the Arts Personality of the Year Award and in 2007 the Arts Service Award, both from the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe.Her films have also received awards. Kare Kare Zvako (2005) won the Golden Dhow in Zanzibar, the Short Film Award Cinemaafricano in Milano, and Short Film Award at the Zimbabwe International Film Festival. Peretera Maneta (2006) received the UNESCO Children’s and Human Rights Award. She also won the Gender, Equality and Media Award for her film Growing Stronger in South Africa in 2006.

 

Her short story The Letter is rich in its illustration of the hardships that an African woman, entangled in the web of a patriarchal society with no voice, limited choices and an almost bleak future has to contend with.

 

Tsitsi Dangarembga
Tsitsi Dangarembga

 

In particular I love this extract from The Letter in which Tsitsi portrays the gentle, quiet strength and deep character of this (abandoned) married woman;

 

“This morning I received a letter from my husband, the first in twelve years. Can you imagine such a thing? As has been my custom during all this time that I have been waiting, I opened my eyes at four o’clock when the first cock crowed, and lay remembering the day that he left, without bitterness and without anger or sorrow, simply remembering what it was like to be with him one day and without him the next.”

 

Tsitsi has also delivered a lecture published as part of the Dakar, CODESRIA, Lectures Series entitled, ‘The Popular Arts and Culture in the Texture of the Public Sphere in Africa’ in which she explores the African culture and suggests how culture may be used to cultivate subjective consciousness.

 

As a founding member of many initiatives, Tsitsi promotes Zimbabwean arts and women’s rights. Her involvement with the Zimbabwe Association of Community Theatre, the Women’s Action Group and Zimbabwe Women Writers has promoted women in art as well as the use of art to advocate gender equality. She is currently the Director of the International Images Film Festival for Women, another one of her brilliant initiatives. She is also a trustee within the Envision Zimbabwe Trust, an organisation that explores developmental challenges and issues affecting Zimbabwean women and youth and devising solutions to these problems.

 

Tsitsi speaks out against women abuse, against domestic violence and more recently against political violence against women.

 

Not only England is blessed with talented writers such as William Shakespeare and Jane Austen. Right here in Zimbabwe we have them too and I hope you agree with me that Tsitsi is definitely in their caliber. If you don’t I can understand why, it’s probably a generational thing, just like Jane Austen was misunderstood in her time, future generations will get what Tsitsi is all about too.