Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Africa LGBT event at the BFI..... my take

When i was invited by the organizers of this year's London Lesbian and Gay film festival to be on the panel at the African LGBTI film screening, I was really excited. Not because he gives me another opportunity to open up my mouth wide again and start yarning something, or that I happened to be among the few that get driven to the venue while I have a VIP attention and then watch the film for free while someone else pays close to £10 to see same film.

But because it presents a chance to discuss the plight of the LGBTI movement in Africa, over 40 years after the Liberation of same group in Europe and America. Knowing that I will be speaking on the panel, I promised myself, never to demonized Africa and her people, I belong to the group of advocates (as I hate to use the word "activist" for myself), that believe if there are information, there will be a change in attitude from Africans towards LGBTI people. How these information is created and passed on to the people at the grassroots is another thing I will talk about some other day.

The entrants for Africa this year were from South Africa, Uganda and Nigeria. The South African film shows the new issues tearing the soul of that nation apart; corrective rape of Lesbians. I heard of these 4 years ago when a friend of a friend was raped and killed. The believe is that if you rape a Lesbian, she will turn heterosexual. It reached its peak last year when a top female footballer in South africa was raped and killed. These has also been identified as a means of transmitting HIV to the Lesbian community in south Africa. The pain and the agony of being raped and rejected by family just because you are Lesbian is so traumatic that the scare will live with you for the rest of your life.

While I was still dealing with the pains and trauma of "Mosa" , the next film from Uganda was another affirmation of what I know. As someone who has been buying my family love for over 6 years now, I know what it is like to be a rejected gay man. I remember always telling my friends back home in Nigeria that the only way they can be loved and respected is when they have money to give. it sounds bizarre, but that is the truth. Though I have never met Victor face to face, I have the honour of being painted by Gabrielle, who did an artistic activist work around Transgender issues in Africa, and Victor was one of the people she painted. She told me of the courageous world of Victor. I have also longed for an opportunity to meet him and tell him how much I adored him.

Watching the "Kuchus" (the local name for Gay people in ugandan) of Uganda, brought back memories. Memories of growing in Nigeria, trying so hard to effect change, trying to work for the community i am passionate about. The tears we shed for lost battles and won battles. The pain of having nothing to eat, of joblessness because we are gay and open. The frustrations from the press and the local people, the rejections from families and friends. To me the "Kuchus" film reminds me of myself, but also brought a feeling of guilt.

I sat in the audience in London watching the courageous determination of LGBTI people in Africa, people that could have used the abuse they face to run away but they decided to stay. Not that i consider myself a coward, but sometimes, I asked myself, would staying back at home change something by now? But again, I know that my coming to Europe has not been in vain, and it has not been for self glorification and for a life of luxury.

While the "Kuchus" got the audience griming, the next film to following left them asking very probing questions. The entry from Nigeria was "House of Rainbow". A film that rather talked about the life experience of a British gay pastor who tried to set up a "gay church" in Nigeria. the film explored the challenges he faced in his attempt and what led to him "fleeing" the country. While Mosa and Kuchus looked at the struggles of African LGBTI in Africa, the HOR film was more about the struggles of the pastor.

It was quite interesting to follow for me as I was part of the formation of this church right from the beginning, and knowing very well that there was an agenda. A gay church in Nigeria is not bad, but as at the time it started, was it right? Considering the rising in hate crime towards LGBTI people in Nigeria? I will say no. History has shown that using religion as a basis for LGBTI right all over the world is a failed battle.

But was it liberation this pastor was bringing to Nigeria? from my perspective, the answer will be NO. The whole idea was more like setting a stage for the eventual life of luxury being enjoyed by the founder today.

The whole essence of this write up is not to attack the person of the pastor, but to uncover, the second wave of exploitation that is taking place in Africa at the moment. The exploitation of the vulnerable LGBTI community in Africa, a situation where, they are becoming meal ticket and flight tickets to the advantaged few who sees the situation to self glorified themselves.

So when next you watch "House of Rainbow" ask the pastor very important questions like: who are those boys? What happened to them? did they give permission for the film? did they even know a film is being made or have they been told it will be showing at the LLGFF? will they ever have a share from the money made? What happened to them after the church was disbanded? was the Reverend really a Nigerian? Did he grew up in Nigeria?

Maybe then you will get a better and clearer picture of things. Mind you I am not saying he should not be involved in the struggle, all I am saying is, it should be for the people and not for self glorification.


Mark Healey said...

well written Bisi - some very good points.

Anonymous said...

hmmm...i always thought Jide was fake. hmmmm, again

Anonymous said...

i don;t know....my experience says that using religion to promote LGBT rights does help, as so many LGBT people are believers...