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AfriQueer: a dreamscape of queer masculinities tours Africa and Europe

- Wits University

Drama for Life presents AfriQueer, an international tour which opens up a space for reflection, compassion and understanding of queer identities,

The 2017 international tour of site-specific performance project AfriQueer, is created by Drama for Life AFRICA Project, written by Tlotlego Gaogakwe and directed by Warren Nebe. This acclaimed site-specific showing, which celebrates *LGBTIQ+ human rights and is based on an ancient creation myth of how the stars were made, will initially tour South Africa, The Netherlands, Ghana and Mozambique.

Drama for Life AFRICA Project will present iterations of this new, groundbreaking, site-specific performance across Africa and in Europe from 21st September this year. This brave, original work opens up a space for reflection, compassion and understanding of and for queer identities, and adds to the already sounded clarion call for a human rights and social justice based approach to LGBTIQ.

In collaboration with the Goethe-Institut, the iterations in Ghana and Mozambique will see local performance artists in those countries collaborating with AfriQueer’s Company to create site-specific performances that witness and celebrate the endurance of the human spirit.

AfriQueer Drama for Life

AfriQueer was launched two years ago and has already performed iterations in Mozambique, Botswana and in South Africa at the National Arts Festival where the work was awarded the Adelaide Tambo Award for Human Rights in 2016. 

AfriQueer is a dreamscape, a queer meditation on masculinities. Audiences are invited to embark on a ritualistic journey with the performers through a natural space/environment. The witnessing participants will encounter evocative images, physical theatre, traditional healing dances, mystical characters and a poetic and enigmatic wolf-like narrator who evokes memories of love, passion and grief. These theatrical moments are devised to elicit a sensory experience, an emotional trajectory, and a subtle questioning of what it is/not to be a so-called ‘man’. More importantly, the work speaks back to the redeeming possibilities of love.

The voyage is framed by the poetic narrative of an ancient San creative myth that tells of how the stars were made by two lovers who lose themselves in a maze of circumstance. Except in AfriQueer’s version, written by the talented Gaogakwe from Botswana, in contemporary, queer terms the lovers are two men. The audience is challenged to look, witness, and contemplate masculinities, sexualities and relationships differently - in open, non-judgmental and non-prescriptive ways.

AfriQueer, originally conceived by Nebe and the Drama for Life AFRICA Project, brings together a group of talented performing artists who each make a unique contribution toward the curated work. The artists, directed by Nebe, include Tefo Paya, Songezo Mcilizeli, Kwanele Finch Thusi, Hamish Neill, Sthe Khali, and Bonginkosi Mnisi. They all bring their own artistic signatures to the site-specific performance.

“We are incredibly excited to be doing this work in and across Africa. It’s time men were brave enough to contemplate what it means to be a man and what it means to love another man,” exclaims performer Sthe Khali. “AfriQueer is a memorial to the suffering of Queer men, particularly African men living on this continent and those who have had to flee to other continents in order to survive,” explains writer Gaogakwe. Nebe, acclaimed director and collaborative theatre-maker, says that “the work has been a powerful drawing together of men at a time when men have needed to reflect on their own complicity in the cycles of violence perpetuated by men; men of culture and tradition, men of the church, men of the body politic, and men of history/ies.” He concludes, “Our unnatural fear of queer is our unconscious acceptance of what we have inherited from our fathers and the fathers who came before them.”

AfriQueer includes performances on the 21st and 22nd September, as part of the Drama for Life Sex Actually Festival, at Zoo Lake in Johannesburg from 8.30 pm. Audiences will meet at the entrance of Moyo’s.  Sex Actually is organized in partnership with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The company will then perform in the Netherlands as part of the main AfroVibes Festival from 27th September to 9th October in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The production will then be based in Maputo, Mozambique from 3rd to the 10th November. This performance iteration will include new company members drawn from leading performers in Mozambique. AfriQueer will then move to Accra, Ghana from 26th November where a new version of How the Stars Were Made will be created and performed as a collaboration between the original company and artists from Ghana. The tour iterations in Ghana and Mozambique are organized in partnership with the Goethe-Institut.

AfriQueer is made possible by the generous support from the Swiss Agency for Development Corporation (SDC), the Goethe-Institut, Drama for Life at University of the Witwatersrand and AfroVibes.

*Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Asexual, Queer and other sexual orientations and gender identities (LGBTIQ+)

AfriQueer Dates

  1. Johannesburg, South Africa
  2. Thursday, 21 September 2017 (20:30) - (21:30) Zoo Lake
  3. Friday, 22 September 2017 (13:15) -(14:15) West Campus 
  1. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  2. Friday, 29 September 2017 00 hrs Tolhuistuin (Tuin and on-site), Amsterdam.
  3. Saturday, 30 September 2017 00 hrs Tolhuistuin (Tuin and on-site), Amsterdam.
  4. Sunday, 1 October 201700 hrs Tolhuistuin (Tuin and on-site), Amsterdam.
  1. Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  2. Saturday, 7 October 201700 hrs Maaspodium (on-site), Rotterdam.
  3. Saturday, 7 October 2017 00 hrs Maaspodium (on-site) Rotterdam.
  4. Sunday, 8 October 201700 hrs Maaspodium (on-site), Rotterdam.
  1. Maputo, Mozambique
  2. Friday, 10 November 2017
  3. Saturday, 11 November 2017
  1. Accra, Ghana
  2. 15 December 2017
  3. 16 December 2017

Social Media

#AfriQueer has a substantial social media platform inclusive of:

Twitter: @Drama_for_life

Twitter: @dfl_AFRICA

Twitter: @AfricaQueer

Twitter: @FUCKmeQUEER

Instagram: @fmqsafely

Instagram:  @AfricanQueer