To set the tone of the tone of the book review, one must understand that LGBTI communities within Africa are still a taboo topic of discussion and even illegal. Many individuals who are LGBTI are unfortunately ostracized, condemned and even killed in several countries in Africa. There are very few that have the freedom to be themselves under the close scrutiny of societies and vast cultural dictations on the continent.
Queer Africa: New and Collected Fiction compiled and edited by Karen Martin and Makhosazana Xabau
Where LGBTI communities and identities in Africa are constantly seen as importations and as foreign, where we constantly hear rhetoric about how ‘homosexuality is un-African’, Karen Martin and Makhosazana Xaba present us with this daring collection. Queer Africa is a collection of 18 short stories, and excerpts from novels, where characters experience a myriad of emotions that speak to issues of same-sex desire and ambiguity in African communities.
A beautiful introductory piece by Professor Pumla Dineo Gqola makes way for stories by authors from; different parts of the continent, different eras, some prominent and others emerging writers. When reading these stories I could not help but be reminded of the term: kimay coined by Binyavanga Wainaina, which denotes diversity and the cacophony of different rhythms in Africa. The varied stories all made different impressions on me, and I believe different readers will have different favorites.
Contained in the collection are Monica Arac De Nyeko’s Caine Prize winning ‘Jambula Tree’, a gentle story about the growth of two girls who fall in love. Roger Diamond’s ‘Imphepho’ is another beautifully layered nostalgic account of inter-racial same sex love between two men, it traverses issues of race and even incorporates indigenous culture, especially when one considers the cultural significance of imphepho [Xhosa for the grey helichrysum plant]. Another painful, yet written in the most exquisite prose, is Wamuwi Mbao’s “The Bath”, a love story between two women.
What is most enjoyed most about this collection is that the stories refuse to accept the erasure of queer identities in Africa. This is an exquisite collection, and the multi-vocal nature of this collection contributes greatly to how we think about the contemporary African literary space.
Written By Zukolwenkosi Zikalala, Contrbutor Writer, SwaricMedia.com