Limit(less) Project: Odera

Limit(less) is a documentary photography project by Mikael Owunna exploring the visual aesthetics of LGBTQ African immigrants. For more on the project, follow us on TumblrInstagramFacebook and Flickr

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Odera: Queer Nigerian-American

Odera: Queer Nigerian-American

Odera: Queer Nigerian-American

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

My name is Odera, and my country of origin is Nigeria. My ethnicity is Igbo (it’s even part of my family name). My preferred gender pronoun is they, but I truly call and respond to many gender IDs: He, They, She, Odera, Sailor Senshi, Goddess, Gw0rl.

Recently I have been embracing the Q of the LGBTQ. Queerness allows and builds beautiful transformative magical energy that transcends labels and boundaries. So I definitely embrace ~*Queer*~  

Q. How would you describe your style?

I am a hybrid RPG job class: Summoner/Dancer. My magic comes from the Afro-Diaspora. Instead of “Ifrit” or “Bahamut” I have Anyanwu. Instead of “The Magus Sisters, I have “The Vogue Knights”. So essentially when I dress myself I like to think, “what outfit will help me unlock a new deity living inside of me? Do I need an MP Recovery robe? Or Charisma granting bootyshorts?”

But sometimes I am just a magical girl anime transformation sequence that takes place on an afrofuturist Soul Train line.

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

When it comes to blending the two elements, I really enjoy playing with silhouette, pattern, and color. My queer magic helps me unplug from the matrix of gender-policing. And then my African identity functions as the cradle of creativity.

So for instance if I have on a really large and billowing boubou/dashiki (which usually comes with a matching pair of large billowing pants), I will pair it with really tight complimentary bottoms instead. Sometimes it will be more subtle, like opting for drop crotch/parachute pants and a moment of color and pattern that reminds me of nigerian textiles.

Sometimes this results in less African textiles and more Milli-Vanilli cosplay, but ultimately I treat my fashion choices as extensions of my illustrations/paintings. So the content addresses the merging of worlds, and then visually I focus on balance, attention to shape, gradients of detail and pattern, color palettes, and composition via color.

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?

I think the world tends to place African and LGBTQ identities in opposition with each other. Africans typically declare LGBTQ as a very white/american/un-african concept #sin #sodom #gomorrah #YASgawdGiveitupforLilith #ChristianFundamentalistColonizersinAfrica. While parts of the LGBTQ community allies itself with white supremacy and patriarchy #WhitePenisastheHolyGrail.

So I have never felt at home with just one community, or any place that doesn’t allow for intersectionality.

I am lucky because, I have built a home and inner fire within myself that simply does not accept the binary. And it certainly doesn’t accept others defining my identity. It simply isn’t in my nature.

How did I build that home within myself? A big part of it is probably having allies and representation of queerness at a young age.

Shoutout to my best friend/sister for her incredible foresight and strength that nurtured and accepted me since we were toddlers dancing in the living room to Anita Ward’s Ring My Bell.

Shoutout to Sailor Moon for positive representation of women and queer couples.

Shoutout to yaoi.

Shoutout to Kate from my Pre-college painting class, she was the first person who just assumed I was gay/queer and in that moment it simply felt right to #sayyes.

Shoutout to my childhood curiosity, questioning everything, and internet research abilities that helped me combo-break shame regarding sexuality.

Shoutout to Mikael (creator of Limit-less) for being my first internet friend! Back then I didn’t realize that being a nerdy young nigerian boy on a BoA forum would lead to finding community and acceptance.

Shoutout to self love.

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

One of my sisters is truly the best friend/family/community you could ask for. She is the definition of a survivor, protector, and healer.

I think alot of my strength comes from her being in my life. And I am so full of gratitude for her.

When I *first* tried to respond to this question the first words that came to my mind for my family were “Crazy, Toxic, and Trauma.”

But it would be ridiculous and unfair to not mention “Dedication, Strength, and Resilience”.

Recently, distance allows for at least the possibility of healing. I love my family, and I know they love me. However, “love” doesn’t always equate to acceptance.

The image of “Acceptance” by family?

It would probably be them not flipping out when I tell them the theme for my wedding is “Ororo Munroe at Solange’s Wedding meets Katamari meets Sailor Moon”.

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

The most beautiful part about being African/of the African Diaspora is our resilience.

To live and thrive as an African is an act of revolution and power.

And for me, living my truth as an LGBTQ person is simply an extension of that power.

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

The shoot was great. It definitely used up alot of my MP, but I was surrounded by some of my closest friends so it was everything I could ask for.

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

Intersectional LGBTQ African representation is so important to me. So while I am excited to indulge in my own image, I am really pumped to see the entire series and how it grows and transforms this year. There was also some really inspiring imagery that might inspire some Illustration work on my part.

Q. Where are you comfortable with people reaching you on social media (include links to your accounts that you’re willing to be shared with each post)?

Tumblr: Odera.tumblr.com

Instagram/Twitter: @Odyism

Website: www.odera-igbokwe.com

FB: https://www.facebook.com/Odera.Igbokwe