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Reimagining the Black and Queer Body: A Conversation with Photographer Mikael Owunna
November 8, 2019 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Growing up as a queer African person, photographer Mikael Owunna was told that it was “un-African” to be gay, and that homosexuality was foreign to his culture. After enduring years of severe alienation from his Nigerian heritage and a series of exorcisms, he found photography as his voice and his method for healing, leading him to where he is today.
His most recent project, Limit(less), seeks to reclaim his African-ness and queerness on his own terms. Limit(less) is an award-winning documentary photography project on LGBTQ African immigrants in North America and Europe. Framing the work as a quest to debunk the myth that it is “un-African” to be LGBTQ, in the process Owunna found that there are no safe spaces anywhere for LGBTQ Africans – even in the “liberal” West. As Owunna states, “This body of work is a collaborative response between me and my community to redefine what it means to be an immigrant, African and queer in North America and Europe at this time. To confront, with our self-love and stories, the oppressive narratives that say we should not exist. We are Limitless.”
Owunna’s work extends to the love and acceptance of one’s body. His other projects, especially Infinite Essence in which he paints the models with fluorescent paints, illuminate the black body as not ‘dead or dying/gunned down’ but as something beautiful and eternal—to be loved and embraced by its owner. Owunna’s work coaches self-love, dignity and self-respect, despite sexuality, color or nationality.
The event organizer is Amanda Maples, curator of African Art at the NCMA and visiting professor in the Department of Art and Art History at UNC-Chapel Hill. She will be introducing Mikael Owunna and leading the conversation.
The African Studies Center, the Student Affairs LGBTQ Center, and Arts Everywhere invite the Carolina community to join LGBTQ photographer Mikael Owunna at the Ackland Art Museum as he discusses his personal experiences of growing up queer in Nigeria, and how this has informed his subsequent global artistic practice.