In creating these portraits, there was a lot of struggle to find queer historical figures and stories in Nigerian history. There is a penalty for queerness in Nigeria due to religious beliefs and the integration of that into law. This means that queer people are not allowed to exist openly for fear of jail time and/or death. Although the law is recent, the effects of British colonialism on Nigeria includes a legacy of homophobia and transphobia that manifests in violence and rejection from our own cultures. Conversations about queer history and present are completely hidden and discouraged.
ABOUT THIS ARTIST
Of Nigerian origin, Sonia Ekiyor-Katimi is a self-taught non-binary artist and architectural designer living in Montreal. She recently completed her master's degree in architecture and is now exploring her personal artistic practice. Ekiyor-Katimi is interested in queer identity through community arts by participating in intersectional panels and multidisciplinary collaborations such as the Up Here, Nuit Blanche festival (Sudbury and Montreal), Black Lives Matter Sudbury panels, and artwork for upcoming festivals.
The icons I chose all encompass the resilience it takes to be queer while either living in Nigeria or living with the shame of the colonial conditioning. When I found three icons, I chose one who is still alive as a way to share the ongoing resistance of homophobia amongst Nigerians. I decided to use a digital medium and create three similar portraits that show the faces of the icons along with some imagery of Nigerian flowers to represent the growth and blooming despite external pressure to hide. The process of studying the faces of these icons helped me connect with each of them and I felt connected to their stories in this way.