Sem Sombras (Unshadowed) is an exhibition that will center the work of queer and trans Mozambican artists of various disciplines, including sound, visual and performance art. The works presented will illuminate the lived realities and creative expressions of queer and trans Mozambicans and other Africans, often targeted by institutions and erased from mainstream culture. The exhibition showcases the survival and thriving of creatives who have carved their own way of being and dare to be their full selves without fear. It will explore what it means to be queer in relation to the self, the other, space, time, language and the State.
Mozambique is one of only 10 (out of 54) nations on the African continent to have decriminalized homosexuality. Yet LGBTQIA+ people still live in fear of exposure, harm and assault. In many African nations, being homosexual, queer and gender non-conforming is criminalized to varying degrees, in some regions punishable by death. At present, the Ghanaian parliment is deliberating on a bill that can make homosexuality punishable by incarceration (up to 10 years). In Nigeria, homosexuality is a codified crime punishable by 14 years in prison or death in the northern region. Even heterosexual and cisgender allies face criminal charges for providing support to LGBTQIA+ family and friends. This dangerous trend toward austerity and criminalizing identity sets a dangerous socio-political precedent, as such nations hold great influence over geographically smaller, less wealthy nations on the continent.
Still, there are resisters living in and outside of the shadows – challenging oppressive regimes and creating spaces for people to express the fullness of their queer identities and experience, even if these are so far temporary. This exhibition aims to highlight the myriad ways in which queer and trans Mozambicans and other Africans are not only surviving and fighting, but also undoing enforced social norms and demanding rights, pleasure and freedom for ourselves and beloved community. The exhibition will showcase selected artists who are engaged in transformative cultural production and socio-political activism through creative mediums. Though this exhibition will take place in Mozambique and center Mozambican artists, queer and trans artists from other African nations will be invited to present their works. Mozambican artists include Yuck Miranda, Regular Panda, Michel Onésion, Vanessa dos Santos, Rita Couto, Marilú Namoda, Paulo Pascoal, Chonga Pessana, and Gessica Stagno. Artists from elsewhere on the continent will include Pamina Sebastião (Angola), Va Bene (Ghana), Amina Gimba (Nigeria), Batsirai Chigama (Zimbabwe), Kyle Malanda (Malawi) and others.
In addition to hosting some (mostly 3D) works within a traditional gallery space, the video, audio and performance pieces will spill out into the streets of Maputo, taking the works to the people in a manner accessible to the local masses. The exhibit will be documented with a zine available in print and online (on Issuu.com), in Portugues, Spanish and English. Sem Sombra intends to inspire queer and trans Africans across the continent to begin or deepen their own creative and political actions toward achieving freedom and visibility in their homelands.