“Why Question” is a visual conversation with myself on the topic of LGBTQIA+. I approach this dialogue from the perspective of my younger self growing up in religiously conservative society with my older self from the vantage point of exposure.
Sexual orientation and people’s choices and preferences were never topics of discussion when I was growing up in Ghana. It never occured to me that there were those who were different, and potentially that some of my friends could identify as LGBTQIA+.
Displays of love and affection were limited to familial relations, and were sometimes extended to friends who were de facto family. It didn’t seem unusual to our young minds to express our brotherly and sisterly love in a way that would be confused presently. It was normal to see both adults and children of the same sex holding hands while walking down the street, or placing their hands around each other’s neck, or showing affection in a physical way to each other. However despite such open expressions of same sex affection, any display of LGBTQIA+ identification or a semblance of it was heavily ridiculed and discouraged. Boys who were perceived to be “effeminate” were nicknamed “Kojobesia,” essentially a derogatory remark on their masculinity (“Kojo” = Akan name for boys born on Monday; “besia” = woman).
In the year 2021 a member of Ghana’s parliament proposed a law that the international press dubbed as “anti-gay,” but which its defenders claim is a protection of the cultural value of Ghanians. This proposed bill touched off months of intense debate within and outside Ghana. This debate started an internal conversation that has led me to explore the nature of love. From my vantage point of maturity, and from forming friendships with people who openly identify as LGBTQIA+, I am forced to reflect on my own implicit bias and to question the cultural messages I grew up with. I find myself asking the question – “what if love was a mystery only to be identified through the soul?”
For my audience, I invite you to join the conversation, and for those marginalized and brutalized by society, I hope the following words by Rumi, which served as an inspiration during the creation process, gives you some comfort: “Do not feel lonely, the entire universe is inside you.”