Limit(less) Project: Sizwe

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

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Sizwe: Queer Burundian (Canada)

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

Sizwe

Black-African Descent Burundi by birth Zimbabwean by upbringing

Preferred gender (no personal pronouns tbh  I go by they )


Q. How would you describe your style?

My style tells you a story of where I came from and where I am going. I like to think of my style as a statement. A statement of unapologetic fierceness. I tend to  incorporate a lot of afro centric elements to my clothing… but also keeping it simple and cute when I need to face capitalism. Additionally certain aspects of my style such as my accessories be it my rings,my stones, my waist beads and my bracelet not only compliment my skintone, they serve as my armour, as I add pieces of home on me.


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

Hmmm good question . For the longest time I had a hard time  piecing my sexual orientation, gender identity with my culture . I myself like so many of us had to do a lot of undoing… that meant  believing in my embodied identity as opposed to adhering to lables of me eg: You’re gay thats unafrican, your black therefore you should be masc by nature, that’s not our culture etc etc..

Living so far from the African continent and navigating life as a racialized  immigrant, has not been easy . I had no choice but to reclaim my Afrikan queer identity as a way of survival and self preservation. This process of accepting my whole self,honouring my people’s past whilst still continuing their legacy has had to be one of the most liberating acts I have ever done. Moreover this radical form of self love has helped me feel whole as a person.

So I as I go about my day to day life I sincerely hope that the intricate patterns that give life to my clothes speak to my complex intersecting identities, my Kufi which I wear on special occasion ( when I m here to slay) speak to my ancestors grace and the vibrant colours that can be seen complimenting my skin is a testament to my pride.



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?

Before coming into myself I internalized a lot of stigma and hate towards my own sexual orientation. Also not realizing nor having an understanding on how to navigate or come to terms with my intersecting identities .Meaning that I always felt like I had to leave a piece of me behind.

Day to day like my clothing I had to chose which mask would I put on. In a lot LGBTQ spaces, I felt like the foreigner, the odd one out or sometimes seen as the lucky one because “ I am in Canada, now where it’s safe”… safe for who though..?

In some African- black spaces i am met with mixed feelings. In some spaces, my existence is honoured and celebrated notably amongst my peers but sometimes I feel  that my sexuality and gender expression are seen considered disruptive,exemplary and my favourite “ unafrikan” because I dared to be visible.

Community , sticking to my core principles of UBUNTU of collective growth.  The power of community has been truly healing for me , meeting other queer folks from the continent speaks to our resilience as a people.  As my mom so beautiful puts it Kira U kize- heal so that you may help heal others, thats how you grow and solidify the bonds of community.


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

All I can say to that is ico ndufana iruta ico ndufa- that is a saying in my language which means that what we have in common surpasses what we don’t have in common . Therefore I believe blood is always thicker than any social construct. 


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

I would tell them that I am a living proof of what a  pan afrikan queer looks like. I am living proof of those (my queer ancestors) who have gone before me. Just like the sequences of  Monomotapa, My authentic expression of self is as mysterious as the Pyramids of Giza and are as loud the Ingoma z’iwacu ( drum) of the my people  and THEREFORE cannot be interpreted through a Western gaze…


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

It was fun, it fell right in the middle of pride.


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

Given a platform. Getting to share this experience with members of my chosen family.


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

Instagram: @sizwe__


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