34 of 54 recognized African states have laws that prohibit homosexuality. Art and activism intersect in LGBTQ+ social movements in various regions of the African diaspora to challenge ideas of queerness as being foreign to African cultures.
Through the documentation of queer individuals, Mikael Owunna is challenging the narrative that frequents the African diaspora: that being African and being queer are mutually exclusive identifiers of an individual. The oppression and the struggle to share one’s preferred gender is not the focus of these photographs, but the pride in defying boundaries of gender identities are emphasized. These photographs help write new narratives of the experiences of navigating life being queer and African.
Owunna’s desire to photograph the true stories of LGBTQ+ individuals comes from the rejection he felt as a queer individual in Nigeria. Homosexuality is illegal in his home country, as is the case for more than 30 other African countries, limiting his ability to reveal his true identity and his true personality with those around him.
Photographing individuals in more than 10 different countries across North America, the Caribbean and Europe, Owunna captured the identities of queer African individuals, who ultimately felt excluded and abandoned in their own community.
Limit(less) is a documentation of who these individuals choose to be, defying social constructs and the judgment of those around them. These individuals are choosing what gender they want to identify with and portraying these genders explicitly.
Each photograph is captioned with the story of the sitter, allowing the true words and emotions to be in direct dialogue with the image of the individual and emphasizing that individual’s decision to be who they are.
The series acts as a documentation and a resource for those within the community. Each individual photographed has been oppressed in some way for being both African and queer, but they stand together in these photographs, with strength, allowing their true identities to confront the viewer unapologetically.
All artwork copyright the artist. Learn more about Mikael Owunna‘s photographs.