Limit(less) Project: Sarah

Limit(less) is a documentary photography project by Mikael Owunna exploring the visual aesthetics of LGBTQ African immigrants. 

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Sarah: Lesbian Ugandan (Sweden)

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

Sarah Nakiito. Uganda. African. She/Her. Lesbian.


Q. How would you describe your style?

My clothing style? Oh god, it’s very mixed. I dress depending on the weather and mood. I’m not so strict with dress code in that way, if i want to wear a gown on a tuesday because i feel like it I will, so I wear depending on the weather and my mood. I wear a lot of African prints and my own design as well casual street wear (www.kalunjidesign.com).


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

I think it does most of the time but that’s not my goal. So I very much can and sometimes do pass as a straight person but my style isn’t connected to my lgbtq identity- not always purposefully .For the African part, very much so. Maybe not on a daily basis but generally, yeah, generally I wear a lot of African prints I design mostly from african prints. 


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 haven’t overcome it because that repeats every day. I live in a country of mostly white people- a white people’s country. So it’s not something I can slowly overcome or overlook.

I think I’m faced more with those challenges when I get to Uganda because of the anti-LGBTQ culture and harsh laws against homosexuality, I’m not open - let me see - I don’t display that much of my sexual identity when I’m there because I know that you can just- it can end up with me getting killed. So I’m very aware of how I am and how I present myself as well as who I share specific information with. It’s not the same way here in Sweden. I’m though more challenged being a black woman and a black immigrant here. And if I would face any challenges with regard to my lgbtq identity it would be with black people here because there aren’t so many open black queer people in Sweden. So me being a black woman is more challenging in terms of discrimination in different ways.

I’m very much so an African person. That is my first identity before me being a gay person or something else- being a woman is my first and than being an African woman. So I don’t try to blend in [here in Sweden] because that’s impossible to do.


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

My relationship with my family is okay, I’m closer to some and not so close to others. I’ve come to accept the gay part of myself and not so keen on seeking affirmation from others relatives or not. I’m not interested, I don’t need to be approved in that sense. I’ve never really “come out” in this official way that many people do. I’ve just introduced my partners when I’ve gotten with someone, in the same way that I’ve introduced the men in my life before. “This is my partner, this is my partner.” And i don’t really stick around for people’s opinions and reactions. And I’ve made this very clear to many people, and if they have opinions those opinions are not relevant to me.

I don’t talk about my sexual identity with my family except for my siblings and cousins- younger family yes and older ones no. Like aunts. It’s not a secret, but it’s not relevant. If they asked me “do you have a partner” I would tell them, but the times I’ve met them I’ve not had one. And for me it has to come out in some natural way, I’m not going to say it to be spiteful or for the shock value. They are not part of my daily life so they are not part of my life in that sense.

“Acceptance”? For me to accept my choices. For me coming from an African family, acceptance means way more than who you are sleeping with, how you wear your hair, what university program you’re in, are you in university, and for those who don’t accept they aren’t that close to me. I came to Sweden as a refugee with my 5 siblings, and those are the people that I’m closest to. And if I need to talk to someone I go to them. Not to aunties, jajas. So I can stand any judgement from them for the week or whatever that I’m with them. But if it’s too much I can tell them that I don’t accept that- them talking badly about gay people and especially gay men- and that I don’t want my daughter to hear that, and they shut up after that. I’m not raising my daughter to hate people who have nothing to do with her. And that extends to whatever country I’m raising her in. And nobody talks like that in my house or anywhere near my house. I can’t do damage control constantly. So that’s what I do without outing myself, because they are just against gay people.

Acceptance is to accept who I am, I’m not a 3 year old, I’m way past the age for them to shame me. And they’ve learned and they’ve seen me, so they don’t. They have their own issues now. For example if I say “you can’t talk about gay people like that” they say “of course, you would say that” and the bigger surprise to them is if I said nothing because they know that I’m politically active and it’s a way for them to provoke me. 


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

I would say that sounds stupid and ignorant- that’s so ignorant to them. Sexual orientation and gender are not connected to ethnicity. It has nothing to do with ethnicity, that’s what I would say. 


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

Uhhh! Hard! Hard with a capital “H” because as much as I’m comfortable with myself and comfortable with who i am the self esteem part of myself but body image is something else. And I don’t usually expose myself like that. I let you be a part of who I am and let you into who I am. Not just physically but emotionally. And of course that would have some effect on me. And more than I thought it would. And that’s not something I’m used to, being the focus of someone. But it was also fun to be the focus for once. When you have a child, they are always the focus in the camera. And it was fun to be the center, for an hour, because you don’t get that much as a parent. It was nice to have an hour of me time. That’s what I would say about the shoot.


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

To be in a context with other black queer people! Not so much my picture but to be in a context and to be in a majority somewhere. And for us to be in focus! And for us to have the light shine on us. Because we are fucking beautiful- I’ve seen the pictures. I love them and applaud the initiative. 


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

Can message me on facebook- https://www.facebook.com/nakiito

IG: @kalunji040

Mail: kalunjidesign@gmail.com