This article examines the origin of the term “visual activism” in the context of post-independence South Africa, and further reflects on its development in response to anti-gay legislation in contemporary Nigeria and Uganda. The emergence of an explicitly queer strain of visual activism on the continent was sanctioned by South Africa’s pro-gay Constitution and propagated by the works of photographer Zanele Muholi. Whereas South Africa’s sociopolitical context has permitted the expression of queer visual activism through forms of photography and documentary media in Nigeria and Uganda, this expression has been routinely monitored and suppressed by such policies as the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill (SSMPA) and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, respectively. This study specifically references the works of South African Muholi in conversation with those of Nigerian-American Adejoke Tugbiyele and Ugandan native Leilah Babirye as a means to articulate how these punitive national policies have forced contemporary queer visual activists to adopt expressive rather than representational forms of visual protest. This paper identifies a distinct difference in epistemological origin, aesthetic composition, and formal materiality across the practices of Muholi, Tugbiyele, and Babirye in order to explore the multiplicity of the genre as well as broaden conventional conceptions of African queer visual activism.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Jazmin Maco