Limit(less) Project: Abdi

Limit(less) is a documentary photography project by Mikael Owunna exploring the visual aesthetics of LGBTQ African immigrants to debunk the myth that it is “un-African” to be LGBTQ.

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Abdi: Gay Somali (Shot in Umeå, Sweden)

Support Abdi’s Asylum Bid in Sweden: https://www.facebook.com/abdisvanner/

Q. What’s your name, country of origin, pronouns, and how do you identify in terms of your LGBTQ identity?

Abdi Ahmed, Somalia, he and gay. I live in Umeå.


Q. How would you describe your style?

All sorts african style. Hip hop sometimes.

My style is like hip hop. African style and reggae. Somali style as well like a macawiis (scarf around your hips).

When I was living in Somalia I had different style, the pants were wide and flat. Here in Umeå I always wear tighter clothing and to look well trained and strong.

African style is like when you want to wear a t-shirt like this one [points], you do it. It’s like bright colors. It’s not different when you look at jeans, it’s different when you look at the shirt or the shoes. Africans like the big shoes like boots, hip hop shoes and colorful shirt. I like it too. It’s a big difference from [traditional African style]


Q. How do you think your style incorporates/blends elements of your African and LGBTQ identity?

Whenever I talk to my mother I don’t show her my long hair or my earrings. Because it’s like forbidden in our culture, just if you do like this they will say he is gay or he became girl. Only girls can wear earrings. It’s like that in Somalia.

I enjoy [wearing earrings], but not when I talk with my mom. I don’t want my mom to see things. When I’m with myself I enjoy and I don’t care. I am who I am.

It’s a big difference when you are Muslim and very religious, it’s forbidden to have earrings and gold [bracelets], other Africans here [in Sweden] have that.


Q. Was there ever a time where you felt pushed away from your African or LGBTQ identities? If so, how did you overcome that personally?

Because I am Muslim in my country. My family they don’t like me to be gay, and Somalia also, they don’t like it. That’s why I moved. My brother called the police and the religious groups and that’s why I had to run. In our law in Somalia, when you are gay they can charge you with death.

I’m happy that I’m gay from Africa. There was a time when I wasn’t, when I was living in Somalia.

I feel free, I feel can do my feelings to be a gay. Because when I lived in Somalia it was forbidden. And here in Sweden I feel free in my feelings. But not in the government of Sweden, they want to send me back to Somalia because they think I’m not gay.

I am free in my feeling, but as I said for [Swedish] immigration I am not free. I feel like in the chains.

I was scared all the time in Somalia, but I feel like [Sweden] closed everything to me. I cannot go to work, I cannot go to school. I cannot buy [cigarettes]. It’s so difficult.

I don’t want to come back to Somalia, and I know that I can never come back there. If I come back Somalia I will be killed, I know that. Al-Shabab and religious groups.


Q. How is your relationship with your family, and what does being “accepted” by your family look like for you?

I have a good relationship with my mom. Only my mom. But she still asks every day when I’m getting a girlfriend. Why don’t you getting married? My mom loves me so much. She doesn’t like that I’m gay and she wants me to choose the traditional way, because in Somalia we have a tradition that when you are 20 you must get married and must have children. I don’t say nothing to her and just [knod in agreement]. Mother is mother always. But my brothers they hate me so much because I’m gay. My mom because I am her child, she tells me to take this way because it’s the good way for being Muslim. When she asks me why I don’t have a girlfriend I just say “I don’t know,” I can’t go to her and tell her “oh no, I’m gay I want a guy.” When I was young I was close with my mom because I would help her all of the time. I feel in my way shameful. You’re mama, I love her and she loves me. But I cannot talk with my feelings. My mother is very important to me.

Christer is my family here in Sweden.

My family do not accept my homosexuality, because of the religion and the culture.

They will never say okay.


Q. What would you have to say to people who say that being LGBTQ is “un-African”?

I was born that way. And I’m from Africa. That’s all.


Q. How was participating in the Limit(less) shoot?

Great, cool, cold.


Q. What are you most excited about for Limit(less)?

I hope that a lot of people understand that there are a lot of gay [people] in Somalia and Africa. Because there are a lot of people who say to me that there is no gay in Somalia. Okay, fuck, where I’m from? I’m gay and where I’m from?

They think that because I come to Europe it’s “European culture” but in Africa everyone is scared, nobody wants to cut the chain or come outside. There is no coming out. That is why nobody thinks there are African gay because they are all underground. But when they come to Europe they can express their feeling.

In Somalia they think that they didn’t have homosexuality before European colonization.


Q. Where are you comfortable with people reaching you on social media? 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amiir.aziiz.5

Abdis vanner (Page to support Abdi’s Asylum bid) - https://www.facebook.com/abdisvanner/

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