Limit(less) Project: Juliet

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

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Juliet: Queer Ugandan-Rwandan (Sweden)

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

My name is Juliet Atto, also called Jules, and I was born in Uganda and raised in Sweden. I mainly have roots in Uganda but also Rwanda as my grandmother was Rwandan. My ethnicity is Acholi, a minority ethnic group in northern Uganda. My pronoun is she/her and I identify as queer.

Q. How would you describe your style?

Hard to say, but I would say “edgy” with a feminine twist, or perhaps feminine with an edgy twist? A mix of street and chic with vintage elements. My style evolves over time and I like to update myself and my wardrobe every 2-3 years or so, reflecting where I am in life at that moment.

The best word to use to describe my style today is ‘carefree’. I’m very comfortable with my body and I like to show it and have fun with my style. You can definitely tell that I’m a big city girl in the clothes I wear. My outfits tend to be very modern and expressive of who I am as a person: a young carefree black queer girl!

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

I would say my style is quite queer in the sense that it doesn’t fit into just one box. I love tight dresses and crop tops but also sneakers, button-up shirts and leather jackets. My style is not particularly African in the traditional sense, with African prints etc., but I have elements of what I’ve seen women in my ethnic group, Acholi, wear like bright colors and long skirts. I would, however, like to incorporate more traditional African prints in my wardrobe.

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?

Oh, yes. I’ve felt pushed away from my African identity because I was raised in Sweden and with barely any Ugandan traditions. I used to speak my native language, Acholi, when I was little but forgot it as my family and I were learning Swedish. Language is very important when it comes to culture and identity, so it’s a regret of mine that I’m not able to speak it anymore.

I haven’t until about a year and a half ago fully embraced my LGBTQ identity. I’ve been in LGBTQ surroundings for years and saw myself as an LGBTQ person but was never quite treated or seen as one by others. I’ve always been around white LGBTQ people and they didn’t really see me as queer. Also, being a femme woman and not being a lesbian hasn’t helped either. I’m seen as “unreliable” because I’m attracted to men as well, even though I’ve been out since I was 12 and discovered my attraction to girls long before boys and other gender identities.

I’ve overcome all of this by finding other black queer people and forming Black Queers Sweden, the feminist and anti-racist movement and independent organization for black LGBTQ+ people, where we can be ourselves; both black and queer. Finally I am around people who understand and I feel proud to be queer, black and African, all at once without compromise. I have also met other bisexual, pansexual and queer people and met gay people who are accepting, which has helped enormously.

As far as my African and Ugandan/Rwandan identity goes, I would like to get more in touch with it and my roots and I feel a stronger need for it the older I get.

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 in terms of my sexuality is great. I only felt the need to come out to my mom and for the rest I’ve made it an obvious thing, as obvious as being straight is. I haven’t made a big deal about it and neither have they. I understand how extremely privileged I am to be out to my family and I cherish it deeply. Although she may not always understand my sexuality, the fact that I’m attracted to all gender identities and not just one, my mom always taught me to be my own person and live a life that makes me happy. She taught me to be independent and strong and her acceptance was the only one I felt I needed so I’m truly blessed to have it.

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

That is such an ignorant thing to say and believe. LGBTQ-phobia is actually Western, not African. Being LGBTQ is not limited to one race and is definitely not a “disease” from white people; LGBTQ-phobia is. The idea that only white people can be LGBTQ is. The more black queer people that get represented the more it becomes normal that hey, we’re loud! We’re here! We’re black and we’re queer!

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

It was amazing! Seeing Mikael in action was a great experience. He’s super talented and creative. I was a bit low on energy due to it being a stressful week when we had our shoot, but it was a lot of fun and I felt sexy and powerful! It’s an honor to be a part of this amazing, super important, ground- and norm breaking project!

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

The exposure, visibility and normalization of black African LGBTQ people. It’s a long time coming but we’re finally organizing world wide and showing our flawless black and queer selves and mainstream society and the rest of the LGBTQ community are starting to take notice. A global revolution has started! 

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

Everywhere! Haha. I use Instagram and Twitter, @JulesAtto. I am also co-founder of Black Queers Sweden and we’re also on Instagram and Twitter: @BlackQueersSwe. We also use the hashtags #BlackQueersSwe and #BlackQueerMagic.

My IG:

My TW:

Black Queers Sweden TW:

Black Queers Sweden IG:

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