Art and activism converge in Africa’s Out!, a dynamic new campaign created by Kenyan-born artist Wangechi Mutu to “change the way we all engage with Africa and, more specifically, the way in which Africans reach out to empower one another,” the Brooklyn-based artist says.
Africa’s Out! will take the form of exhibitions, events, performances and discussions, starting with a fundraising exhibition of work by more than 40 world-renowned artists, including Kehinde Wiley, Zanele Muholi, Cindy Sherman, Shirin Neshat, Julie Mehretu and Mutu herself at Gladstone Gallery in New York on 5 June. See the artworks.
The event will be a show of support and a celebration of the rights of African LGBTQI individuals – “since this issue is most urgent!” says Mutu.
When I conceived of Africa’s Out!, the idea I had was that no one should be silenced, hidden, left behind or punished for their uniqueness and individuality.
“Africans everywhere should have their rights protected no matter who they are, and the recent criminalisation of gays in Africa is making it dangerous and impossible for many simply to exist,” she says.
The exhibition will raise funds for UHAI - the East African Sexual Health and Rights Initiative, an indigenous activist fund that provides resources to support the rights of sexual minorities in East Africa.
Each artist has donated a piece in a strong show of support for sexual equality in Africa. Live musical performances by Solange Knowles, Cakes Da Killa, Venus X, DJ Cuppy and Electric Punanny will add lustre to the show’s opening.
Mutu plans to produce other “beautiful radical events” for Africa's Out! to highlight Africa’s diversity and multifaceted creativity.
Mutu gives the full back story behind her decision to dedicate the first iteration of Africa’s Out! to speaking out about the persecution of sexual minorities in Africa:
“This event produced by Africa’s Out! is very dear to my heart and was inspired both by Wanja Muguongo’s work with UHAI EASHRI and also the public coming out of my close friend, writer/activist Binyavanga Wainaina. On January 18, 2014, through a symbolic letter to his mother published online, Binyavanga pronounced that he is gay. It was the ‘lost’ chapter of a book he’d published two years before, called One Day I’ll Write About This Place, for which I helped design the cover. Only one week prior to Binyavanga’s letter, former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan passed a flat-out anti-gay law, which makes same-sex relationships illegal, punishable with up to 14 years in prison. Uganda passed a similar law on February 24, 2014, punishing ‘aggravated homosexuality’ with life imprisonment (revised from an earlier proposal of the bill, in which individuals would receive the death penalty). With this sort of climate rampant throughout the continent and the world, our action is more important now than ever. I am so very proud of all the courageous artists and culture producers who have joined us in this effort – the first ever Africa’s Out! fundraising benefit.”