I recently spent 26 days in Kenya traveling the coastal towns and villages north of Mombasa with Kenyan Queer activist Layla Laura Wangari where we spent time engaging with LGBTIQGNC identified communities. Our intention was to create a textual and photographic documentary that speaks to the ‘concept, and cultures’ of Queer Blackness as experienced by people in the costal regions the majority who also identified as Muslim and Bajuni. The documentary was made possible through the Astraea Foundation’s Global Art Fund 2017. The photographs below might at first seem out of place in relation to the “concept and cultures of Queer Blackness”. I share them for a number of reasons.
Our drive from Malindi to Kipini had taken nearly four tedious hours driving over pot holes and dirt roads littered with huge pools of muddied water. Arriving at the site of the Tana Delta Lodge took us up a steep climb to the edge of the cliffs beyond which was the red sea of the Tana Delta on the Indian ocean. Originally the lodge had 7 one room chalets with patios overlooking the sea. Now there are only two chalets left. Three had completely disappeared over the cliff and two more were in various stages of dying. The cliff side had collapsed over the past years as the sea encroached further and further inland. It is not clear the cause of the erosion but it struck me as similar to the erosion of land along the coast of Nigeria from Lagos to the Niger Delta. Here was yet another delta with disappearing land, creeks and mangrove swamps. Not the coast seen by tourists and displayed in fancy brochures luring westerners to their notion of an Africanness created in exotic nightmares. Laura described Kipini and the delta as “Kenya Two” unknown and or forgotten by the center, an outlier, invisible, hidden. But to itself, it is a fierce beauty that lives within itself but proud nonetheless with it’s own rhythms, textures, smells and sense of self. These images were my introduction to the Kenyan coast which is embodied in the people. Here water, whether oceans, rivers or ponds, are central to the spiritual and economic life of all people.