5 North African LGBTQ+ Artists You Ought to Know

The parable that queerness is un-African, or Western, persists in most (North) African societies. In actuality, LGBTQ+ folks and communities have all the time been part of Africa. Colonialism compelled Western binaries and homophobia on colonized societies, and its remnants proceed to hang-out and endanger queer folks throughout the continent.

In lots of Northern African societies, same-sex practices and gender fluidity have been largely tolerated in pre-modern occasions, however have develop into stigmatized taboos by now. This delight month, we need to introduce you to some of the various queer North African artists and activists who’re combating to encourage tolerance and solidarity, each within the diaspora and on the continent.

Malak Elkashif (Egypt)


Range in Adversity: Malak Al-Kashif, Egypt

Malak Elkashif is an Egyptian trans lady, author, and human rights activist who counters transphobic discrimination. She is the manager director of Transat, a regional group and platform that promotes scientific and cultural consciousness of gender points throughout the Arabic-speaking communities.

After getting arrested twice in 2014 and 2017 attributable to her look, Elkashif grew to become the primary brazenly transgender Egyptian to be arrested for political causes on March 7, 2019. She was charged with allegedly “aiding a terrorist group” and “misusing social media to commit against the law punishable by regulation,” for attending a protest, calling for justice after a practice accident in Cairo on Feb. 27, 2020.

Elkashif spent greater than 120 days in pre-trial detention; as a result of her authorities ID didn’t replicate her gender id, she was stored at a males’s jail and spent 4 months in solitary confinement. A whole lot of on-line customers shared the Arabic hashtag “Solidarity with Malak Elkashif.”

Upon her launch on July 15, 2019, she filed a lawsuit towards the Minister of Inside, in collaboration with the Egyptian Fee for Rights and Freedoms, to demand the allocation of secure detention locations for transgender people. After two years of exhausting and prolonged classes, the lawsuit was rejected.

Regardless of the setbacks and violence she endured, Elkashif continues to make her voice heard and advocate for trans rights. About delight month, Elkashif posted on Instagram that, “There isn’t a delight month with out Palestine,” highlighting the significance of intersectional solidarity.

Khookha McQueer (Tunisia)


Khookha McQueer er Tunesiens førende dragqueen

Khookha McQueer is a beloved determine in Tunisia’s queer neighborhood. As a drag queen and entertainer, she creates house for LGBTQ+ people to precise themselves and assist one another. As an activist, she targets Article 230, which dates again to 1913 below French colonization and criminalizes same-sex sexual exercise, and all articles that prohibit or restrict sexual freedom and gender expression. She additionally raises consciousness about sexual well being and LGBTQ+ rights.

Amidst current crackdowns on Tunisia’s civil society in addition to its nightlife and LGBTQ+ communities, McQueer shares that watching delight on social media provides her a sense of alienation. “Satisfaction month is a yearly reminder that Satisfaction is definitely not allowed for everybody, and that we should always battle to make it ours,” she tells OkayAfrica.

McQueer extremely believes in Satisfaction as a sense and values its significance in each queer particular person’s life. “I are inclined to see it by a racial lens,” she says. “We must always discover ways to be pleased with ourselves by our personal gaze, not by the white gaze. We nonetheless undergo from colorism and racism and self-hate as queer folks in Tunisia.”

Two years in the past, she wrote a Fb publish saying “Satisfaction needs to be regionally ours.” “The publish popped up once more this yr and I believe it’s all the time legitimate, particularly with the present context and deeper hole between the [West] and [SWANA region] after October 7,” she says.

Sofiane Hennani (Morocco)


Machi Rojola

Sofiane Hennani is a Moroccan queer activist who advocates for plural and inclusive masculinities, as a substitute of the poisonous and unique masculinities which might be presently enforced by the established order. He writes columns for the journal PDREVUE, the LGBTQI+ South African journal QR Ardour, the impartial Moroccan weblog The Openchabab, and different LGBTQ+ platforms.

Hennani, who has a Ph.D. in Oncology and Molecular Biology, is the producer of Machi Rojola, a podcast on which he hosts teachers and activists working in queer and feminist research for conversations reimagining masculinity. Machi Rojola is a well-liked expression that means “it’s not masculine” in Moroccan Arabic. It implies that somebody is “not a person,” usually used to level out a scarcity of bravery, honor and energy.

Hennani grew up in a small city in Morocco the place queerness was an undiscussed taboo. Whereas he constructed a powerful sense of self regardless, he witnessed different queer youth undergo and thus felt impressed to problem dangerous techniques. “It is extremely tough as a queer particular person to have entry to schooling, social companies, hospitals,” Hennani instructed DAWN. “All issues in society are associated to the LGBTQI scenario. If there’s violence in society, LGBTQI persons are violated extra.”

Hennani’s work is embedded inside a wider context of rising LGBTQ+ activism in Morocco, which has seen the emergence of a number of younger queer organizations up to now decade.

Ahmed Umar (Sudan)



Raised in a Sufi household dwelling between Sudan and Saudi Arabia, Ahmed Umar fled to Norway at a time when being brazenly queer was punishable by loss of life in Sudan. He stays strongly linked to his tradition and the area by his multidisciplinary artwork follow which spans sculpting, portray, efficiency and images. In April, Umar opened the Venice Biennale with a efficiency of a conventional bridal dance. In June, he’s exhibiting for the primary time at Artwork Basel.

“As an artist, a few of your success and in addition financial system relies on recognition from the surface world,” Umar tells OkayAfrica. “For now, I used to be the primary Sudanese to indicate within the Sydney Biennale, making a press release that ‘That is Ahmed Umar and he’s homosexual.’ I need to occupy as a lot as doable of any necessary artwork areas on the earth, as a result of I desire a queer identify to be current within the artwork historical past of Sudan.”

Umar has a serious long-term objective: he plans to arrange The Nile Satisfaction within the Sudanese capital Khartoum in 2030. “I believe it’s doable,” he instructed Expertise Norge. “There may be an terrible lot of hatred, however on the similar time there’s hope.” Throughout Satisfaction Month 2023, he joined the march in Oslo, waving a Sudanese flag with “The Nile Satisfaction 2030” written on it.

Habibitch (Algeria)



Lissia Benoufella, aka Habibitch, is an Algerian-born Paris-based, non-binary, queer, femme, boss, dancer, choreographer, activist and Sociology instructor. They arrived in France at 4 years previous, fleeing the civil struggle in Algeria.

As an artist, they use areas just like the Ballroom Scene or feminist and institutional levels to precise themselves creatively and politically. As an activist, they provide intersectional workshops and performances aimed toward decolonizing dance flooring around the globe. Habibitch regularly feedback on social and political debates associated to race, gender, immigration and marginalized teams in France and past.

In an interview with Mykali Journal, they replicate on their queer Algerian diasporic id and what it means to accommodate these totally different cultural experiences in a single physique. Like Umar, they wish to give again to the queer neighborhood in North Africa; like McQueer, they’re conscious of the way in which LGBTQ+ cultures and identities are expressed in another way there than within the West; and like Elkashif, they proceed to claim that being queer means standing up towards imperialism and borders.

The commonalities of those artists and activists show that queerness is as a rule a unifying expertise that considerations itself with the advance of our societies and real solidarity for all.

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