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Queer art for ‘peculiar’ peeps

By Tony Mochama | September 11th 2020 at 06:00:00 GMT +0300

Fena Gitu recently released a music video called ‘Siri’ that is supposed to be about two lesbian women in a secret relationship. If you are expecting to see raunchy girl-on-girl action in the video, you will be disappointed.

Other than ‘the morning after’ scene, vague hints with rumpled bed and crumpled duvets in a hotel room (that is supposed to signal that there was some serious rug munching that was going on), the video is nothing to write home, or to Ezekiel Mutua, about.

2 Live Crew, the dirty American rap group who in 1990 gave us the anti-lesbian anthem ‘Dick Almighty’ (with lines like ‘lesbians are crazy/effing like s**t/ belly to belly, skin to skin, but the big think is ... ain’t no d**k goin’ in ...’) wouldn’t be impressed or intimidated by the ‘lesbo lite’ ambiguity of Fena’s Siri.

Nor is there any need for Kenya’s self-appointed moral cop, KFCB bozz Ezekiel Mutua, to get his knickers into an almighty twist by this innocuous video. In fact, I suspect he’s busy pushing KFCB’s latest project - a Covid-19 song that features leaders from Lower Eastern (Kitui County, under the Kiio Wambua Foundation), and the Board’s Clean Content Ambassadors #SANITIZE

And maybe it is fear of censure that led Fena to give us this diluted video, as she explains that the video tells a version of the dating scene as we know it and ‘if you understand it (the Siri), good on (you) for being progressive...’

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It is no siri that two Septembers ago in 2018, Mutua made no secret of his displeasure with filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu’s ‘Rafiki’ (about the sexual relationship between two young women) and his board subsequently banned the (locally) gay pioneering film on moral grounds, for which Miss Kahiu took it to court for contravening ‘Freedom of Expression’ as granted by the Katiba.

As Covid-19 caught the country at the end of April, though, the High Court under Justice J A Makau ruled that Wanuri had failed to prove how the ban of Rafiki had contravened her constitutional rights, a ruling she has vowed to challenge all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary...


KFCB tsar Mutua, was, however, doing a celebration lap, saying ‘we have won a landmark case against a consortium of gay sympathisers on the gay film Rafiki by Wanuri Kahiu...’

He told Pulse that “we had been labelled as homophobic and ostracised both at home and abroad (by this Gay Consortium). But we stood for family and for Kenyans, and refused to bring these gay films to our cinema auditoriums”.

Ironically, by targeting ‘Rafiki,’ Mutua may have internationally boosted Kahiu’s film, which by any objective art standards, is a pretty mundane and even mediocre film, save for its gay theme.

Internationally, Brokeback Mountain was the first mainstream Hollywood film, back in 2005, that featured two cowboys as homosexuals. Made for Sh1.4 billion, it went on to rake in Sh17.8 billion in global Box Office, as well as winning three Academy Awards – thus paving the way for films like ‘Love, Simon,’ a big 2018 gay film hit, and the first to feature a homosexual romance between teenagers.

Just this June, shooting on its TV adaptation, ‘Love, Victor,’ began on Hulu island in Hawaii!

In Kenya, while straight-as-an-arrow international Kenyan Lupita Nyong’o is known for her film art (including co-starring in ‘Black Panther’), the actress’s brother, Nyong’o Junior, who has acted in local TV shows like ‘Mother in Law,’ is known for preening around in dresses; as is Ian Nene of ‘Machachari’ who enjoys cross dressing (something musician Bahati got flak for when he wore his wife’s red dress once).

In theatre, on the Ides of March 2018, we had Kaz Lucas directing Eve Ensler’s ‘Vagina Monologues’ at the Kenya National Theatre, that starred a whole gallery of female stars like Nini Wacera, Silvia Cassini, Suzanne Gachukia-Opembe, as well as the three Patricias – Kihoro, Amira and Waikimba.

Yet this theatre-play where woman genitalia speaks of pain, pleasure, self-love, love of other (vaginas) first came to Kenya under Mumbi Kaigwa in 2003, and this writer recalls sitting in the audience at then Phoenix Theatre at Professional Centre, thinking kweli ‘Second Liberation’ had really arrived if posters advertising a ‘Vagina Monologue’ can be pinned freely on poster boards like the one at Alliance Française.

September being the local ‘book month’ in Kenya, it would be remiss not to talk about gay literature at this juncture of our story.

And like so many pioneering things to do with Lit, it first started with the late Binyavanga Wainaina, who marked his 43rd birthday in the January of 2014 by officially coming out of the closet.

By releasing the ‘Lost Chapter’ of his 2011 memoirs ‘One Day I Will Write About This Place.’

Tellingly, the title of that lost chapter was ‘Mum, I am a Homosexual’, where Binyavanga imagines confessing his gayness to his mom on her death bed.

First put up as a post on the webzine of the SA-based ‘Chimurenga Chronicle,’ it caused a continental furor, even as it was taken up by the Guardian newspaper in the UK, where wazungus praised Wainaina.

But it was when Binya went on popular TV shows like ‘The Trend’ on NTV and then KTN’s ‘JKL Live’ with Jeff Koinange that the anti-gay brouhaha went wild. Binyavanga got into all sorts of exchanges with Kenyans whose only interaction with literature is ‘two chapters of Leviticus,’ yet their capture by the moral Leviathan will allow them to listen, on a two-hour trip by matatu to Nakuru, to an ignorant man ‘spewing Bible verses at them, while frothing at the mouth,’ then demanding money for ‘blessing them with journey mercies.’

In the 2010s (2011 – 2019), the books that sold the most in the US were E L James’s ‘Fifty Shades’ trilogy, about the BDSM relationship between a college girl and some loaded, but perverted guy, moving 35 million copies, and occupying ALL the podium positions in terms of bestseller places.

That success has inspired up-and-coming Kenyan writer Caroline Allegret, who is based in France, to write the impossible-to-put-down life-and-lit-erotik book ‘My Name is Toni’ that has menage a trois in it – with her next book ‘Good Luck, Toni’ to feature swinging scenes as seen in France by a local lass.

Writer Jacob Aliet certainly feels Kenya has a space for this kind of ero-literature, as does erotic poetess Eudia Kamonjo, both portraying it in prose and poetry with no sense of ‘I’ll regret this’ a la Ms Allegret.

Of course ‘Pride Month’ is not recognised in Kenya.

But that didn’t stop Anita Nderu recently stoking social media fire during her cooking show, not sponsored by Fresh Fri cooking oil.


She achieved this by inviting two well-known LGBTQ dudes, Victor Maish and Romeo, in boxers and night gown and lipstick, to twerk and prance about, and posted their she-nanigans on YouTube.

As intended, the video caught the attention of #KOT, pro-and-anti gay, and went on a trend.

All this harum-scarum, though, may be just that as Clay Muganda concluded, our propensity to anger, especially on social media.

‘Kenyans love getting annoyed,’ Editor Muganda wrote. ‘Some people are mad at Anita Nderu and some are mad at Fresh Fri (sic). Others are mad at those who are mad at Anita and Fresh Fri. Some are mad at those who aren’t mad at Anita Nderu and Fresh Fri. We are struggling to find annoyance in our lives.’

Whether the gay theme introduction into our arts are the clay feet that will bring down our ‘morality’ statue, including in statute, eventually introducing even legislation that legalises and normalses ‘gaydom,’ only time will tell. But what is already clear is that in the northern hemisphere, from Lisboa to Lesbos, lesbians and the rest of the LGBTQ have already been mainstreamed, including in the arts, as a ‘minority.’ So expect to see everything, from Young Adult to New Adult to kids cartoons, it’s inclusion for everyone.

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Fena Gitu Ezekiel Mutua Covid-19 Kiio Wambua Foundation
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