Homosexual rage and desire brought to life

2014-03-02 14:00

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A year before his death in 1989, Nigerian-born photographer Rotimi Fani-Kayode wrote: “I seek to translate my rage and my desire into new images which will undermine conventional perceptions.”

Now some of those images, interrogating black male sexuality and colonialism, can be viewed for the first time on African soil.

The exhibition is being showcased at the Iziko South African ­National Gallery in Cape Town, where signs warn visitors of its “adult content” – it includes gold-painted phalluses and male genitals draped in grapes.

Gallery director Riason Naidoo points out that the exhibition is particularly pertinent in light of recent homophobic incidents in African countries.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni signed off on strict anti-gay legislation on Monday, ­inciting criticism from around the world. ­According to the new laws, people can be jailed for life if they are caught engaged in “homo­sexual acts”.

The openly gay Fani-Kayode was born into a prominent Yoruba family in Lagos in April 1955. His family fled to England because of a military coup when he was 12.

At the exhibition, Fani-Kayode’s voice comes to life through excerpts from his 1988 essay, Rage and Desire, which is ­displayed against a gallery wall.

“It has been my destiny to end up as an artist with a sexual taste for ­other young men,” he wrote.

He explains that in extreme ­alienation, he found the courage to challenge the anti-gay conventions of his culture because he had nothing to lose.

“On three counts I am an outsider: In matters of sexuality; in terms of ­geographical and cultural dislocation; and in the sense of not having become the sort of respectably married professional my parents might have hoped for,” he wrote.

“Such a position gives me a feeling of having very little to lose. It produces a sense of personal freedom from the hegemony of convention.

“As for Africa itself, if I ever managed to get an exhibition in, say, Lagos, I suspect riots would break out.”

Iziko borrowed the exhibition, called Traces of Ecstasy, from Yinka Shonibare, a British­Nigerian artist living in London.

.?The exhibition will run until May 15

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