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This Stunning Photo Series Is Highlighting The Experiences Of LGBT African Immigrants

"There was nowhere that I felt like I could be both queer, African, and whole."

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Mikael Owunna, the creator of the series, grew up with tremendous anxiety from constantly balancing being both Nigerian and queer. "I didn't feel like I could be both of these things," Owunna told BuzzFeed News.

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Owunna was outed to his parents at the age of 15 and they responded with "a barrage of homophobia" and even told him his identity was "un-African." They believed their son had been corrupted growing up in America.

"For several years I was sent back to Nigeria during holidays, with the hope that re-immersing me in my culture could 'save me' from gayness,'" he said.

When he reached the age of 18, he was put through a series of exorcisms to "drive" the gay out of him.

"There was nowhere that I felt like I could be both queer, African, and whole," Owunna said. And it was in that lack of space that the student decided to take action. Through his photos, Owunna attempts to create a "queer African home" for himself and others.

"Almost all of the (very few) images of LGBT Africans out there are so sad and depressing and center exclusively on our pain," he said. "I want to provide a space through my art where we can heal and see that we not only exist being both LGBTQ and African — but that we also thrive and love ourselves!"

The artist found participants mostly through social media — posting open calls for portrait sessions on his Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter pages. Each participant would go through a one- to two-hour Skype call with Owunna before their photo shoot, answering questions about their family, identity, and personal style.

mikaelowunna.com

"I want to make sure that everyone is 100% comfortable with being out and potentially identifiable in the work, as there are real risks that we all take — even living in the West — by being visibly out as African people," he said.

Owunna hopes his series helps others realize the scope of the LGBT community and recognize that "POC expressions of identities we would now call 'LGBT' have always existed."

mikaelowunna.com

"In African communities, in particular, Western colonization specifically worked to erase and destroy the knowledge of these identities," he said.

The photographer has captured over 30 portraits of LGBT African immigrants in the US, Canada, Trinidad & Tobago, and Sweden.

mikaelowunna.com

Terna, a bisexual Nigerian-Liberian American, revealed to Owunna in her interview that holding space for both her African identity and LGBT identity has caused tension in her personal relationships:

"They have affected my family relationships in the sense that I’m not as close to certain family members as I would like to be because I feel like my queer identity would get in the way of having the closeness that is the way that closeness goes down with my African family members, and that’s been really, really difficult."

For fellow LGBT Africans, Owunna hopes seeing the images are as healing for them as creating them has been for him personally.

mikaelowunna.com

Odera, a queer Nigerian-American, discussed their favorite thing about being an LGBT African:

"The most beautiful part about being African/of the African Diaspora is our resilience. To live and thrive as an African is an act of revolution and power. And for me, living my truth as an LGBT person is simply an extension of that power."

Limit(less) is currently on exhibit in Montreal at the Never Apart Gallery through April 4. This summer, Owunna will continue documenting LGBT Africans, photographing participants in Belgium, France, Portugal, and the UK.