This selection of portraits was taken at the conference on Same Sex Sexuality and Gender Diversity in Nairobi, Kenya in March of 2014. 5 of the people featured here were participants of a photovoice project titled Subaltern Speak. The participants of this project documented the struggles they face based on sexual orientation and identity politics within conservative local contexts.
The most prevalent theme of the participant’s narratives and photos related to issues of safety. Many of the photos and narratives submitted by participants documented spaces that were unsafe to reveal their sexual identity, such as public spaces, as well as those where it was safe to be known as gay or lesbian, usually in private settings such as parties. Each participant selected two photos that touched on this theme to be included in the final presentation that was held on the second day of the conference. When presented, the photos and narratives provoked a discussion among conference attendees around issues of representation and authorship of LGBT people in the global media.
Born out of this discussion was an interest to collaborate on a series of portraits that confronted the notion that for people in African countries, ones safety as it relates to identity is out of the hands of the individual. In countries like Uganda, Nigeria, Malawi, and others, newspapers and publications are printing the names and photos of LGBT people, and consequently endangering their lives. The portraits featured in this seeries respond to this act of endangerment by reclaiming the right to choose when and how an individual identifies. Each person that sat to be photographed came up with their own unique way to de-identify themselves.
This series was exhibited from May 8th to June 2nd 2015 in the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and in July of 2015 at Gallery 315 in New York City, under the title Who Can Tell. They were also published in the book Boldly Queer: African Perspectives on Same-sex Sexuality and Gender Diversity.
Examples of participant photos and narratives from the Subaltern Speak photovoice project can be seen in the photovoice section of this website.