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Limitless Africans Book

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Release: October 11, 2019 - National Coming Out Day.

Limited Edition: 500 copies in stock.

"I closed my eyes as the traditional priestess poured a basin of mysterious oils over me. Stinging my body from head to toe, she repeated the motion several times to wash the 'gay devil' out of me. I was 18 and I was back in Nigeria for Christmas, where homosexuality is illegal ... Gay and Nigerian, this was my third exorcism in just a few days' time." -- Mikael Owunna

While laws promoting the rights of LGBTQ individuals have gained ground in the West, progress has been uneven across the African continent. Homosexuality is currently illegal in more than thirty African countries and punishable by death in four. There is also the widespread belief, echoed by many African leaders, that homosexuality is 'un-African' and not native to the African continent.

As a gay African immigrant born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Mikael Owunna (b. 1990) has spent much of his life experiencing rejection from all sides. Rejected by American society due to his blackness and immigrant status, and from African circles because of his sexuality, Owunna felt "unacceptable" everywhere he turned. While earning degrees from Duke University in Biomedical Engineering and History (class '12), he discovered photography which became his voice in the darkness.

In 2013 Owunna began work on Limitless Africans. Over four years, he traveled to ten countries across North America, Europe and the Caribbean to document the LGBTQ African immigrant experience. As he began shooting portraits and interviewing LGBTQ African immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, Owunna discovered that his subjects had endured the same type of rejection that he had. "Limitless Africans is a collaborative response between me and my community to redefine what it means to be an immigrant, African and queer in this increasingly fraught global moment." 

On National Coming Out Day, October 11, 2019, over thirty of Owunna's compelling portraits and accompanying excerpted interviews will be published in his first monograph Limitless Africans (FotoEvidence). Through these narratives, the book artfully explores precolonial African sexuality and contemporary LGBTQ African narratives to debunk the myth that it is 'un-African' to be LGBTQ. 

Limitless Africans also includes references to queer African history to highlight the presence of LGBTQ Africans on the continent across the historical record. The symbols used in the book are known as Nsibidi, an ancient writing system from south-eastern Nigeria that predates colonization. The book's color and design are based on ancient bronze relics in Nigeria, and Nsibidi adorns the cover and inside pages. The Nsibidi on the book cover above the title depicts two women sleeping together with pillows on either side and with their arms around one another. If this figure were upright it would be a man and woman.

Limitless Africans is 250 pages, 8x8 in (21x21 cm) and includes 75 color photographs and texts by Zun Lee, a prominent black queer photographer, and Rafeeat Aliyu, a Nigerian woman writer and documentary filmmaker. The text in the book is in English and French.

The publication of Limitless Africans was made possible with the support of The Pittsburgh Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, The Opportunity Fund, The Fine Foundation and the Investing in Professional Artists Grants Program, a partnership of The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments.

Limitless Africans by Mikael Owunna was selected as a finalist for the 2019 FotoEvidence Book Award with World Press Photo. 

Copyright 2019 FotoEvidence. All rights reserved.
Photographs Copyright © 2019 Mikael Owunna
Foreword Copyright © 2019 Zun Lee
Introduction Copyright © 2019 Rafeeat Aliyu
Photo Editor: Svetlana Bachevanova and Mikael Owunna
Text Editor: David Stuart and Mikael Owunna
Design: Melike Taşcıoğlu and Mikael Owunna
French Translation: Valentin da Costa and Patrick de Werra
French Text Editor: Patrick de Werra and Mikael Owunna

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