Date & Time12:00pm, 14 April 2021 - 2:00pm, 2 April 2021
About the event
This special online Commonwealth Writers Conversation brings together Kenyan writer and activist Kevin Mwachiro, with South African author Mark Gevisser and fellow African activists Nickita Maesela and Xeenarh Mohammed to discuss the themes which permeate Mark Gevisser’s book, ‘The Pink Line: The World’s Queer Frontiers’. The panel ended the session by answering questions from the live-audience.
Drawing from their wide knowledge and experience of LGBTQ+ rights and activism on the African continent and further afield, the panellists explored:
- the importance of writers and gay icons in shifting the narrative around queerness
- the gains and losses of the past decade; and the impact of colonialism and globalisation
- the ‘awkward dance’ between legal reform and social change
the role of the Church in the debate around issues of gender identity and sexuality in Africa
Central to this conversation is Mark Gevisser’s new book, The Pink Line: The World’s Queer Frontiers—one of Time Magazine’s Top 100 Reads of 2020.
Six years in the making, The Pink Line follows protagonists from nine countries across four continents to tell the story of how LGBTQ+ rights became one of the world’s central human rights frontiers in the second decade of the twenty-first century. The Pink Line folds intimate and deeply affecting stories of individuals, families and communities into a definitive account of how the world has changed for LGBTQ+ people, so dramatically, in such a short space of time.
‘The panel recognised that the internet offers queer Africans a space to connect, see, listen, and read their stories. As Nickita Maesela beautifully stated, “We have words and movements to say we are here…These words are helping reclaim African queerness; they are reinstating African queer stories in the story of Africa.’”‘
Kevin Mwachiro, Panel Chair
Read Panel Chair Kevin Mwachiro’s blog ‘A Very Pink Line’ about the Commonwealth Writers Conversation here.
Kevin Mwachiro is a writer, journalist, podcaster, and queer activist. Kevin’s first book is, Invisible – Stories from Kenya’s Queer Community. He was part of the editorial team for Boldly Queer – African Perspectives on Same-sex sexuality and gender diversity. His first play, Trashed, was published in the anthology Six in the City – Six Short Plays on Nairobi and his poems are published in the Pan African queer anthology, Walking The Tightrope. His most recent work is the short story, ‘Number Sita’, published in the anthology, Nairobi Noir. In 2017 he launched a story-telling podcast, called Nipe Story, which produces audio versions of short-story fictional stories from the African continent.
Working in collaboration with the Gay Kenya Trust and the Goethe Institut – Nairobi, Kevin is a co-founder of the Out Film Festival which is the first LGBTQI film festival in East Africa. Kevin Mwachiro currently serves on the boards of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK, an LGBQ coalition), PEMA Kenya (a grassroots LGBQTI organisation), and Amnesty International – Kenya.
Mark Gevisser was born and raised in South Africa, where his experience of apartheid and his journalism about the transitions to democracy shaped his understanding of people’s rights, and how they are claimed, promoted or abused. The author of the award-winning A Legacy of Liberation: Thabo Mbeki and the Future of South Africa’s Dream, and Lost and Found in Johannesburg: A Memoir, he writes frequently for The Guardian, The New York Times, Granta, and many other publications. The Pink Line: The World’s Queer Frontiers is Mark’s latest book. Mark was a contributor to Commonwealth Writers anthology Safe House: Explorations in Creative Nonfiction with a chapter about LGBT refugees in Kenya which became the genesis of one of the chapters in The Pink Line.
Mark was one of the organisers of South Africa’s first Pride March in 1990, and the co-editor of Defiant Desire, a path-breaking book about gay and lesbian lives in South Africa. He has worked on queer themes ever since, as a journalist, film-maker and curator. His research for The Pink Line took him to twenty-one countries. He was educated at Yale University and lives outside Cape Town with his life partner.
Nickita Maesela is a South African freelance journalist who started her journey of telling stories from the LGBTIQ community just over a year ago at City Press, with her role being supported by the organisation The Other Foundation. Her work highlights stories of queer activism and events in Southern Africa, the intersections of faith, gender and sexuality and for people who use art to find healing in a world that restricts their freedom.
She completed her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Cape Town in Politics and Economic History with some courses in Gender Studies. Since learning more about the power that mainstream media has in humanising people’s experiences to the masses she has been motivated to collaborate in creating more inclusive and affirming story-telling in this life-time. She is also a Mail & Guardian Young 200 South African winner for her work and contribution to media.
Xeenarh Mohammed is the Executive Director of The Initiative for Equal Rights. She is a Nigerian lawyer, activist, community organiser and holistic security trainer with over a decade of experience working on human rights issues across sectors within and outside Nigeria.
Xeenarh has in the last few years worked with organisations such as the Open Technology Fund, Love Nigeria Foundation, Heinrich Boll Stiftung and freelanced for many other organisations on issues relating to human rights, gender and social development. She is one of the editors of the book, She Called Me Woman: Nigeria’s Queen Women Speak, published by Cassava Republic Press.
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