"The Untold Renaissance": Ikire Jones Spring/Summer 2014 Lookbook.
It’s all dapper hommes, suave strides and bold prints and patterns in Nigerian designer Wale Oyejide’s Spring/Summer 2014 lookbook for his brand Ikire Jones.
“This collection pays homage to 18th century textiles and tapestries while exploring the absence of persons of color in Medieval and Renaissance-era European art. Borrowing from the sampling method employed in hip hop culture, each reinvented piece tells an original narrative from the perspective of Africans who have been placed in an alien context. Through this reverse lens to the past, the present circumstances of individuals who feel displaced and alienated may also be considered.”
From the perspective of one who appreciates Nigerian art, it seems as if a disconnect persists between those artists, almost exclusively painters and sculptors, who work in a mimetic realist representational mode and cater directly to wealthy local patrons, and other artists who press well beyond the limits of conventional art. The commonsensical view assumes that performance, sound, installation and new media artists inhabit an elite space aligned more with a “global” or “diasporic” art world, and that their creations alienate or come off poorly with a popular Nigerian audience by virtue of being too conceptual or just out of touch. Nothing could be farther from the truth and Jelili Atiku, the Lagos performance artist, puts the lie to that misperception in a dramatic and very significant way.
A new video (below) by Danish filmmakers Lotte Løvholm, Nanna Nielsen & Karen Andersen documents one of Atiku’s recent performances in the Lagos neighborhood of Ejigbo. It is significant that Atiku carries out his performance in the community in which he lives. Far from the more glamorous but stultified centers of artistic activity in Lagos (Victoria Island and Ikoyi), Atiku brings to life a discussion of violence, crisis, national consciousness and humanity in the streets of Lagos.
The Supreme Price | dir. Joanna Lipper
The Supreme Price is a feature length documentary film produced and directed by Joanna Lipper coming soon to cinemas everywhere.
The film traces the evolution of the Pro-Democracy Movement in Nigeria and efforts to increase the participation of women in leadership roles.
Following the annulment of her father’s victory in Nigeria’s Presidential Election and her mother’s assassination by agents of the military dictatorship, Hafsat Abiola faces the challenge of transforming a corrupt culture of governance into a democracy capable of serving Nigeria’s most marginalized population: women.
NIGERIA - DECEMBER 12: Nigerian Women Woth Traditional Headdress In 1956.
Two days before Lola’s dream wedding, her maid of Honour Sandra stumbles on a secret that could change all of their lives forever.UNSPOKEN is a story of commitment to love and friendship in the face of societal taboos we dare not confront or speak of. Share and like our FANPAGE https://www.facebook.com/UnspokenFilm
Checkout website www.oakmanfilm.com CAST Marlene Abuah Segilola Scott Imanuel Orwi Ameh Amour Owolabi Produced and Directed by Sunny King Written By Ola Laniyan and Edith Nwekenta ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
“The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”
- Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Rights worker Olumide Makanjuola says a gay friend agreed to be flogged in an attempt to ‘whip the devil out of him’. Photograph: Sunday Alamba/AP
The party had just started when the gunshot pierced the music. Instantly the men scattered, knowing what it meant: a police raid.
They had gathered in a hotel in the northern Nigerian state of Bauchi, renting out almost a whole floor for a surprise birthday party. But in the minaret-dotted city, where sharia in theory requires gay men to be stoned to death, such stolen moments are fraught. Someone had tipped off the Hisbah – the religious police.
As officials stormed in on that night in 2007, John (not his real name) felt numb with fear. He ran to a room, switched off the lights and crawled under the bed. “They checked room by room. They opened the door and flashed a flashlight, but they thought it was empty.” They arrested 18 others.
A week later, John went to Friday prayers at the mosque. He prayed for 18 of his friends who faced sodomy charges in a sharia court. He prayed for their lawyer, who was forced to sneak into the first hearing via a side door as a mob threatened to stone him for defending “gay marriage”. He prayed for strength to do what he had decided to do next.
"That incident really gave us the courage to start doing something. We couldn’t hide any more," recalls John. And so, in one of the most conservative states in Nigeria, he started holding underground meetings with other gay people. They supported each other when neighbours accused them of being "demons". Sometimes money was pooled together to pay bail or buy condoms, handed out to those who couldn’t afford them. Mainly, though, they helped each other cross the lonely horizon of living each day in denial, finding solace in mutual acceptance.
For years, they gathered in secret. But last week Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, signed the same-sex marriage (prohibition) bill, unleashing a wave of homophobia that threatens to sweep away seven years spent building a fragile haven. The far-reaching law targets not only homosexuals but also those who support their rights, or who fail to report gay people. At least 40 arrests last week swelled the number of those incarcerated to almost 200 across Nigeria, rights groups told the Observer.
One by one, John and his friends fled the city.
"More than 90% of Nigerians are opposed to same-sex marriage. So, the law is in line with our cultural and religious beliefs as a people," said Reuben Abati, the presidential spokesman. The president’s approval ratings soared after months of dismal news about corruption, political violence and a radical Islamist insurgency in the north.
From his location in hiding, John thinks about what to do next. “I’m not comfortable here at all. I cannot stay here doing nothing.”
In a hotel room in the capital, Abuja, two women in hijabs are visiting Dorothy Aken’ova to buy goods considered contraband: sex toys. Providing a rare place where society women feel comfortable enough to buy roleplay lingerie without being judged is just one way Aken’ova tries to liberate her sexually repressed country. Another is hiring lawyers to defend men or women arrested for being gay.
The mother of three has filled her week with phone calls, trying to find lawyers willing to represent those in detention. One man was arrested after his landlord said it was suspicious he shared a flat with another man.
"The lawyers who accept these jobs will charge the skin on your bum. But then the cost of armed guards to accompany them isn’t cheap," Aken’ova sighs, before telling the two giggling women the price for bottles of massage oil.
Money – sometimes out of Aken’ova’s own pocket – is no longer the biggest problem. Simply persuading someone to take up cases is much harder, with many fearing they will be targeted by association. “As soon as I mention gender minority rights, people ask me: ‘Are you a lesbian?’ You can tell they’re willing to immediately dissociate with you if you answer in the affirmative,” says Aken’ova, whose quick smile blossoms as brightly as the tattooed flower on her right biceps.
Such reactions are common across Africa, where populist bills have cracked down on homosexuality, often tightening colonial-era laws. International pressure against such moves has fuelled anti-gay sentiment, with leaders using anger at perceived western interference as an escape valve. The Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, last week said gay people were the product of “random breeding” in the west when “nature goes wrong”, but blocked an anti-gay bill after months of pressure from international donors. Unlike Uganda, about half of whose budget is supplied by western donors, Nigeria is flush with petrodollars and can defy such pressure.
For campaigners, the problem starts with the title of the bill. “People read it and think: OK, I agree with this. They don’t question what else is inside that bill,” says Aken’ova, who has never heard of anyone campaigning for gay marriage. “It’s not [just] anti-gay people; it’s anti-people.”
Last year, a lawmaker said of the bill: “You have a right to your sexual preference but by trying to turn it into marriage do you realise you could be infringing on the human rights of the other person who finds it repulsive?”
So far, they haven’t been the victims. Last week Ibrahim Marafaa, a 47-year-old teacher who was arrested before the bill was signed, was publicly flogged and fined 5,000 naira (£20) after “confessing to his abnormality”.
"If he feels an injustice has been done, he has the right to appeal within 30 days," said Alhassan Zakaria, the sharia lawyer who oversaw the whipping.
Down south, too, floggings aren’t uncommon. Lagos-based rights worker Olumide Makanjuola recounts how a friend of his agreed to be flogged in a bid to “whip the devil out of him”. “He just wanted to stop being the subject of hatred,” Makanjuola says, very softly.
Immaculately dressed and dreadlocked, he talks energetically, at incredible speed, despite several nights awake fielding dozens of phone calls.
Earlier he spent an hour talking to family members to reassure them about his safety. Then two friends called to say they’re leaving the country. One, a doctor, asked if he could be prosecuted for treating gay patients.
Last year Makanjuola documented a case where four men suspected of being gay were publicly stripped, beaten, tied together and paraded naked in a south-western village. The police said they had no evidence of the incident, captured on camera by a jeering mob, but opened investigations to find out if the men were “sodomites”.
Makanjuola refuses to believe the mob’s anger was about homosexuality which, he says, was a scapegoat for their desperation in a country where mismanagement and corruption have left most people jobless and poor.
"They’re a clear example of people who are frustrated by the system. But they should be directing it at our leaders who are buying houses in London and Dubai using looted funds," he says.
Others have little truck with that argument. “Being gay is due to lack of parental care,” says Abdullahi Sani, a policeman who took time off work to attend the lashing in Bauchi. “Twenty lashes is child’s play compared to the offence. The victim has ceased to be a normal human being. He has lost sight of God.”
It’s in this climate John has worked to forge his place in the world. And life was beginning to make sense, he says.
His goal was clear: to act as a point man in a quiet but growing underground movement. This despite his father sitting him down last month and telling him about a gay friend who had recently been beaten up, to stop “associating with that gay boy”.
"I’ll try but it’s not good to suddenly start avoiding a friend. He’s a human being," John told him.
Once, his mother, who died last year, took him aside. “She told me: People will always talk. Forget about them. Just be careful and concentrate on your studies,” he recalls. “She loved me so much because I was the last-born son,” he says, his voice breaking.
John tries to remember that advice now, sometimes turning to Aken’ova as a mother figure. Earlier in the day he called her and said he wanted to return home. “Just stay where you are until things calm down,” she told him gently.
But the longing to be among his friends, including those released from jail, is unbearable. “I just want to be with them. Even if it’s just for 30 minutes.” Besides, he wants to get information to pass to the lawyer. He will return to the city under cover of nightfall. He will go to meet the parents of one of the jailed men, and help them with bail money. Do I think that’s a good idea?
Love can make you do crazy things, I say. “Yes,” he agrees despondently.
After a pause, he speaks again. “But if people can learn to hate, do you think they can learn to love?”
(Image description: 3 horizontal bars in background, color from top to bottom [green, white, green] for the Nigerian flag. The word “NIGERIA” is in rainbow color font and “#SOLIDARITY” is underneath it in all black)
I stand in solidarity with LGBTQ* Nigerians and condemn the passage of the recently passed legislation which violates their basic human rights.
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Photo credit: The Kato Foundation