Founded in November 2008, AFRA (Artists for Recognition and Acceptance) Kenya describe themselves as a “a womyn aligned creatives’ organisation” (1).
For AFRA Kenya, the arts function not only as a space for queer women to express themselves creatively and form community, but also as a means for gaining visibility for sexual diversity and creating a dialogue around issues of sexuality. They are currently the only organization in Kenya using art in lesbian, bisexual and queer women’s organizing.
The work of AFRA Kenya takes many forms. A particularly successful event was the ‘Pink Viewing’ project, which showcased the art of queer women from fine art to computer graphic drawings to performance, providing an opportunity to initiate important discussions about the lives and experiences of sexual minorities in Kenya. By addressing politics through arts and culture, AFRA Kenya aims to engage the wider community in conversation with the queer community and bridge the distance that allows harmful myths to flourish. Because gender and sexual diversity are viewed as originating from the West, AFRA Kenya highlights the presence of LBQ artists in Kenya to show that there is nothing ‘foreign’ about LBQ Kenyans.
But just as high a priority for AFRA Kenya is addressing the needs of queer community, foremost by creating safe spaces for queer women who have experienced violence to share their struggle and find ways to heal. AFRA Kenya offers peer support groups and mentorship programs as well as art therapy in an effort to reconnect women within the society.
The organization also carries out human rights advocacy and offers monitoring and evaluation for art organizations working in the social justice field. With events like ‘Sex Fest’, a weekend of workshops and presentations about sexual health and pleasure, they share vital information in a way that celebrates rather than stigmatizes queer sexuality. And yes, you can even find them on the streets: AFRA Kenya has participated in movements such as IDAHOT (International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia), PRIDE, and 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence.
This range of strategies, with the arts as their starting point, are together able to address the issues that queer women in Kenya face on both the individual and societal levels, as well as create spaces for community and healing. Such a holistic and creative approach is the strength and beauty of ‘artivism.’
(1) and photo from www.afrakenya.com/