Accepted paper:

Making the media we want to see in the world: comics and podcasts by and for queer African youth


Alex Muller (University of Cape Town)
Talia Meer (University of Cape Town)

Paper short abstract:

In our paper, we analyse excerpts from comics and podcasts that we co-created with 18 young queer people from three African countries. These challenge mainstream representations of African queerness and youth, and explore the potential of participatory processes for creative queer activism.

Paper long abstract:

The lived realities of young queer people in African contexts are not well documented. Mainstream discourses in African countries tend to portray queer people either as 'deviant' and 'unAfrican', or as victims of violence and HIV. Challenging media representation and popular stereotypes is thus an important site of queer activism on the continent. To create popular media for and by young queer Africans, we worked with a group of 18 queer youth from Botswana, Kenya and Zimbabwe to creatively document their lives and explore how these are shaped by socio-political contexts. Through participatory methods (creating personal timelines, mental and body maps, and group discussions around themes that emerged) and workshops on podcast and comic making, we facilitated the creation of a comic anthology, based on autobiographical short stories, and of podcasts, based on conversations within the group. In this paper, we analyse some of the emerging themes, illustrated by excerpts from comics and podcasts. The narratives highlight the heterogeneity of experience, identity and politics associated with African queerness, and are testament to creative individual and collective resilience. Many, but not all, young people explicitly or implicitly resisted Western ideas and narratives tied to queerness, rejecting the impetus to 'come out' or to espouse a particular identity on the spectrum of L, G, B or T. As academic and activist interventions, our collective process and the resulting popular media disrupt notions of heterosexual African nationhood and the conventions of Western queerness, and highlight the diversity of queer life on the continent.

panel Anth34
African LGBTQ activisms: queer counter narratives and arts of resistance