There’s a Place in Hell for me and my friends

Pieter Hugo Themba Tshabalala, Cape Town 2011

© Pieter Hugo, Themba Tshabalala, Série There’s a Place in Hell for me and my friends, Cape Town 2011

Ashleigh McLean, Série There’s a Place in Hell for me and my friends, 2011

© Pieter Hugo, Ashleigh McLean, Série There’s a Place in Hell for me and my friends, 2011

Pieter Hugo, from the series

© Pieter Hugo, Pieter Hugo, Série There’s a Place in Hell for me and my friends, 2011

The portraits of the applicants

Paul Alberts 'The portraits of the applicants' 1994albertsPaul

© Paul Alberts ‘The portraits of the applicants’ 1994

As the 1994 election approached in South-Africa many blacks living in small towns and rural areas had never been officially identified. In order to speed up these otherwise slow procedures, Charmaine and Paul Alberts set up an official, but temporary office and studio to process applications. The portraits of the applicants were taken before a paper back drop in the community hall of Majwemasweu. Each person held a slate with a number that corresponded to the number of the film and exposure, plus their name and place where they lived. © Paul Alberts

I am a homosexual, Mum

Zanele Muholi 'LiTer II', 2012

© Zanele Muholi, ‘LiTer II’, 2012

I am a homosexual, Mum by Binyavanga Wainaina

(A lost chapter from One Day I Will Write About This Place)

11 July, 2000.

This is not the right version of events.

Hey mum. I was putting my head on her shoulder, that last afternoon before she died. She was lying on her hospital bed. Kenyatta. Intensive Care. Critical Care. There. Because this time I will not be away in South Africa, fucking things up in that chaotic way of mine. I will arrive on time, and be there when she dies. My heart arrives on time. I am holding my dying mother’s hand. I am lifting her hand. Her hand will be swollen with diabetes. Her organs are failing. Hey mum. Ooooh. My mind sighs. My heart! I am whispering in her ear. She is awake, listening, soft calm loving, with my head right inside in her breathspace. She is so big – my mother, in this world, near the next world, each breath slow, but steady, as it should be. Inhale. She can carry everything. I will whisper, louder, in my minds-breath. To hers. She will listen, even if she doesn’t hear. Can she?

Mum. I will say. Muum? I will say. It grooves so easy, a breath, a noise out of my mouth, mixed up with her breath, and she exhales. My heart gasps sharp and now my mind screams, sharp, so so hurt so so angry.

“I have never thrown my heart at you mum. You have never asked me to.”

Only my mind says. This. Not my mouth. But surely the jerk of my breath and heart, there next to hers, has been registered? Is she letting me in?

Nobody, nobody, ever in my life has heard this. Never, mum. I did not trust you, mum. And. I. Pulled air hard and balled it down into my navel, and let it out slow and firm, clean and without bumps out of my mouth, loud and clear over a shoulder, into her ear.

“I am a homosexual, mum.”

July, 2000.

This is the right version of events.

I am living in South Africa, without having seen my mother for five years, even though she is sick, because I am afraid and ashamed, and because I will be thirty years old and possibly without a visa to return here if I leave. I am hurricaning to move my life so I can see her. But she is in Nakuru, collapsing, and they will be rushing her kidneys to Kenyatta Hospital in Nairobi, where there will be a dialysis machine and a tropical storm of experts awaiting her.

Relatives will rush to see her and, organs will collapse, and machines will kick into action. I am rushing, winding up everything to leave South Africa. It will take two more days for me to leave, to fly out, when, in the morning of 11 July 2000, my uncle calls me to ask if I am sitting down.

“ She’s gone, Ken.”

I will call my Auntie Grace in that family gathering nanosecond to find a way to cry urgently inside Baba, but they say he is crying and thundering and lightning in his 505 car around Nairobi because his wife is dead and nobody can find him for hours. Three days ago, he told me it was too late to come to see her. He told me to not risk losing my ability to return to South Africa by coming home for the funeral. I should not be travelling carelessly in that artist way of mine, without papers. Kenneth! He frowns on the phone. I cannot risk illegal deportation, he says, and losing everything. But it is my mother.

I am twenty nine. It is 11 July, 2000. I, Binyavanga Wainaina, quite honestly swear I have known I am a homosexual since I was five. I have never touched a man sexually. I have slept with three women in my life. One woman, successfully. Only once with her. It was amazing. But the next day, I was not able to.

It will take me five years after my mother’s death to find a man who will give me a massage and some brief, paid-for love. In Earl’s Court, London. And I will be freed, and tell my best friend, who will surprise me by understanding, without understanding. I will tell him what I did, but not tell him I am gay. I cannot say the word gay until I am thirty nine, four years after that brief massage encounter. Today, it is 18 January 2013, and I am forty three.

Anyway. It will not be a hurricane of diabetes that kills mum inside Kenyatta Hospital Critical Care, before I have taken four steps to get on a plane to sit by her side.



Will leave a small window open the night before she dies, in the July Kenyatta Hospital cold.

It is my birthday today. 18 January 2013. Two years ago, on 11 July 2011, my father had a massive stroke and was brain dead in minutes. Exactly eleven years to the day my mother died. His heart beat for four days, but there was nothing to tell him.

I am five years old.

He stood there, in overalls, awkward, his chest a railway track of sweaty bumps, and little hard beads of hair. Everything about him is smooth-slow. Bits of brown on a cracked tooth, that endless long smile. A good thing for me the slow way he moves, because I am transparent to people’s patterns, and can trip so easily and fall into snarls and fear with jerky people. A long easy smile, he lifts me in the air and swings. He smells of diesel, and the world of all other people’s movements has disappeared. I am away from everybody for the first time in my life, and it is glorious, and then it is a tunnel of fear. There are no creaks in him, like a tractor he will climb any hill, steadily. If he walks away, now, with me, I will go with him forever. I know if he puts me down my legs will not move again. I am so ashamed, I stop myself from clinging. I jump away from him and avoid him forever. For twentysomething years, I even hug men awkwardly.

There will be this feeling again. Stronger, firmer now. Aged maybe seven. Once with another slow easy golfer at Nakuru Golf Club, and I am shaking because he shook my hand. Then I am crying alone in the toilet because the repeat of this feeling has made me suddenly ripped apart and lonely. The feeling is not sexual. It is certain. It is overwhelming. It wants to make a home. It comes every few months like a bout of malaria and leaves me shaken for days, and confused for months. I do nothing about it.

I am five when I close my self into a vague happiness that asks for nothing much from anybody. Absent-minded. Sweet. I am grateful for all love. I give it more than I receive it, often. I can be selfish. I masturbate a lot, and never allow myself to crack and grow my heart. I touch no men. I read books. I love my dad so much, my heart is learning to stretch.

I am a homosexual.

Binyavanga Wainaina, I am a homosexual, Mum

© Binyavanga Wainaina

Lettre publiée le 21 janvier 2014 à l’occasion de son quarante-troisième anniversaire par Binyavanga Wainaina sur le blog Africa is a Country et le site Chimurenga Chronic

Apinda Mpako and Ayanda Magudulela. Parktown, Johannesburg. 2007.

© Zanele Muholi, Apinda Mpako and Ayanda Magudulela, Parktown, Johannesburg 2007

zanele-muholi_Musa Ngubane and Mabongi Ndlovu, Hillbrow, Johannesburg 2007

© Zanele Muholi, Musa Ngubane and Mabongi Ndlovu, Hillbrow, Johannesburg 2007

Fragments d’une nouvelle histoire

Zanele Muholi Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg 2007

© Zanele Muholi Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg 2007

Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg, 2007

© Zanele Muholi Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg, 2007


© Zanele Muholi Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg, 2007

Masque nègre

Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou,Untitled (Demoiselles de Porto-Novo series) 2012

© Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou, Untitled (Demoiselles de Porto-Novo series) 2012

A Pablo Picasso

Elle dort et repose sur la candeur du sable.
Koumba Tam dort. Une palme verte voile la fièvre des cheveux, cuivre le front courbe.
Les paupières closes, coupe double et sources scellées.
Ce fin croissant, cette lèvre plus noire et lourde à peine – ou’ le sourire de la femme complice?
Les patènes des joues, le dessin du menton chantent l’accord muet.
Visage de masque fermé à l’éphémère, sans yeux sans matière.
Tête de bronze parfaite et sa patine de temps.
Que ne souillent fards ni rougeur ni rides, ni traces de larmes ni de baisers
O visage tel que Dieu t’a créé avant la mémoire même des âges.
Visage de l’aube du monde, ne t’ouvre pas comme un col tendre pour émouvoir ma chair.
Je t’adore, ô Beauté, de mon œil monocorde!

© Léopold Sédar SENGHOR, Masque nègre in Chants d’ombre (1945), in Œuvre poétique, © Éditions du Seuil, 1964

Sartorial Anarchy

Iké Udé Sartorial Anarchy #8, 2013

© Iké Udé, Sartorial Anarchy #8, 2013

Sartorial Anarchy #15, 2013

© Iké Udé, Sartorial Anarchy #15, 2013

Sartorial Anarchy #31, 2013

© Iké Udé, Sartorial Anarchy #31, 2013

Un homme noir peut en cacher un autre

Omar Victor Diop Jean-Baptiste Belley, 2014

© Omar Victor Diop, Jean-Baptiste Belley, 2014

Omar Victor Diop Jean-Baptiste Belley, 2014 (2)

© Omar Victor Diop, El Moro, 2014

Omar Victor Diop Angelo Soliman, 2014.

© Omar Victor Diop, Angelo Soliman, 2014

Ecoutons battre notre sang sombre


© Koto Bolofo, Arjowiggins skin paper 

Femme, pose sur mon front tes mains balsamiques,
tes mains douces plus que fourrure.
Là-haut les palmes balancées qui bruissent dans la haute brise nocturne
À peine. Pas même la chanson de nourrice.
Qu’il nous berce, le silence rythmé.
Écoutons son chant, écoutons battre notre sang sombre, écoutons
Battre le pouls profond de l’Afrique dans la brume des villages perdus.

Voici que décline la lune lasse vers son lit de mer étale
Voici que s’assoupissent les éclats de rire, que les conteurs eux-mêmes
Dodelinent de la tête comme l’enfant sur le dos de sa mère
Voici que les pieds des danseurs s’alourdissent,
que s’alourdit la langue des choeurs alternés.

C’est l’heure des étoiles et de la Nuit qui songe
S’accoude à cette colline de nuages, drapée dans son long pagne de lait.
Les toits des cases luisent tendrement.
Que disent-ils, si confidentiels, aux étoiles ?
Dedans, le foyer s’éteint dans l’intimité d’odeurs âcres et douces.

Femme, allume la lampe au beurre clair, que causent autour les Ancêtres
comme les parents, les enfants au lit.
Écoutons la voix des Anciens d’Elissa. Comme nous exilés
Ils n’ont pas voulu mourir, que se perdît par les sables leur torrent séminal.
Que j’écoute, dans la case enfumée que visite un reflet d’âmes propices
Ma tête sur ton sein chaud comme un dang au sortir du feu et fumant
Que je respire l’odeur de nos Morts, que je recueille et redise leur voix vivante,
que j’apprenne à
Vivre avant de descendre, au-delà du plongeur,
dans les hautes profondeurs du sommeil.

© Léopold Sédar Senghor, Nuit de Siné in Chants d’ombre Editions du Seuil, Paris (1945)


© Koto Bolofo, Arjowiggins skin paper 

L’œil pudique

Lakin Ogunbanwo Orange 2011© Lakin Ogunbanwo Orange 2011

Femme nue, femme noire
Vêtue de ta couleur qui est vie, de ta forme qui est beauté
J’ai grandi à ton ombre ; la douceur de tes mains bandait mes yeux.
Et voilà qu’au cœur de l’Été et de Midi, je te découvre, Terre promise, du haut d’un haut col calciné
Et ta beauté me foudroie en plein cœur, comme l’éclair d’un aigle.

Femme nue, femme obscure
Fruit mûr à la chair ferme, sombres extases du vin noir, bouche qui fait lyrique ma bouche
Savane aux horizons purs, savane qui frémis aux caresses ferventes du Vent d’Est
Tamtam sculpté, tamtam tendu qui grondes sous les doigts du vainqueur
Ta voix grave de contralto est le chant spirituel de l’Aimée.

Femme nue, femme obscure
Huile que ne ride nul souffle, huile calme aux flancs de l’athlète, aux flancs des princes du Mali
Gazelle aux attaches célestes, les perles sont étoiles sur la nuit de ta peau
Délices des jeux de l’esprit, les reflets de l’or rouge sur ta peau qui se moire
À l’ombre de ta chevelure, s’éclaire mon angoisse aux soleils prochains de tes yeux.

Femme nue, femme noire
Je chante ta beauté qui passe, forme que je fixe dans l’Éternel
Avant que le Destin jaloux ne te réduise en cendres pour nourrir les racines de la vie.

© Léopold Sédar Senghor, Femme noire in Chants d’ombre, Paris, Seuil, 1945

© Koto Bolofo for Skin Paper Arjowiggins

© Koto Bolofo for Skin Paper Arjowiggins

Epîtres à la Princesse

Aïda Muluneh, The 99 Series, 2013

© Aïda Muluneh, 99 Series, Series of seven photographs, 2013

Et de la terre sourd le rythme, sève et sueur, une onde odeur de sol mouillé
Qui trémule les jambes de statue, les cuisses ouvertes au secret
Déferle sur la croupe, creuse les reins tend ventre gorges et collines
Proues de tam-tams. Les tam-tams se réveillent, Princesse,
les tam-tams nous réveillent. Les tam-tams nous ouvrent
Les tam-tams roulent, les tam-tams roulent, au gré du
cœur. Mais les tams-tams galopent hô ! Les tam-tams
Princesse, nos épaules roulent sous les vagues, nos épaules
de feuilles tremblent sous le cyclone.
Nos lianes nagent dans l’onde, nos mains s’ouvrent nénuphars,
et chantent les alizés dans nos doigts de filaos.

© Léopold Sédar Senghor, « Epîtres à la Princesse » in « Ethiopiques » Balises – Nathan Paris, 1997

Muluneh_Aida_99_series_1Aida Muluneh© Aïda Muluneh 99 Series, Series of seven photographs, 2013

© Aïda Muluneh, 99 Series, Series of seven photographs, 2013

Je cherche l’homme mais il se cache toujours derrière le personnage


© Lakin Ogunbanwo 2013

Masques! Ô Masques!
Masques noirs masques rouges, vous masques blanc-et-noir
Masques aux quatre points d’où souffle l’Esprit
Je vous salue dans le silence!
Et pas toi le dernier, Ancêtre à tête de lion.
Vous gardez ce lieu forclos à tout rire de femme, à tout sourire qui se fane
Vous distillez cet air d’éternité où je respire l’air de mes Pères.
Masques aux visages sans masque, dépouillés de toute fossette comme de toute ride
Qui avez composé ce portrait, ce visage mien penché sur l’autel de papier blanc
A votre image, écoutez-moi!
Voici que meurt l’Afrique des empires – c’est l’agonie d’une princesse pitoyable
Et aussi l’Europe à qui nous sommes liés par le nombril.
Fixez vos yeux immuables sur vos enfants que l’on commande
Qui donnent leur vie comme le pauvre son dernier vêtement.
Que nous répondions présents à la renaissance du Monde
Ainsi le levain qui est nécessaire à la farine blanche.
Car qui apprendrait le rythme au monde défunt des machines et des canons?
Qui pousserait le cri de joie pour réveiller morts et orphelins à l’aurore?
Dites, qui rendrait la mémoire de vie à l’homme aux espoirs éventrés?
Ils nous disent les hommes du coton du café de l’huile
Ils nous disent les hommes de la mort.
Nous sommes les hommes de la danse, dont les pieds
reprennent vigueur en frappant le sol dur.

© Léopold Sédar SENGHOR, Prière aux masques in Chants d’ombre (1945), in Œuvre poétique, © Éditions du Seuil, 1964


© Lakin Ogunbanwo 2013


Recevez les nouvelles publications par mail.

Rejoignez 742 autres abonnés