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My name is Mikael Owunna and I am a queer Nigerian-American photographer. Growing up as a queer Nigerian person, I felt that my existence was an inherent contradiction because of my sexuality. I experienced considerable homophobia in African spaces, and was told that being gay was "un-African" - a disease from the West and white people.
Hearing one-sided messages like that from a young age is incredibly damaging to one’s sense of self. Everyone should have the right to be who they are, without hiding key parts of themselves. I saw a lack of stories like mine being told, and knew that something had to change.
I started Limit(less) 3 and a half years ago to create a space where LGBTQ African immigrants could be seen as whole individuals - proud, complicated and celebrated - and share our multifaceted stories with the world. I focus specifically on the LGBTQ African diaspora because we can be visible in ways that many LGBTQ people currently living on the African continent cannot be.
I have shot 34 LGBTQ African immigrants for the project to-date - primarily in North America. These stories can be found online where they are currently archived. Limit(less) has evolved into an online converging space for LGBTQ Africans from around the world. It is a space where we share stories, communicate with one another, and feel validated in our identities.
It wasn’t until it came to fruition that I saw how important curating a space like this is. I do this work in part for future young queer and trans Africans who I imagine stumbling across an entire community of LGBTQ people with stories like theirs. Who are met with acceptance and an embracing of their identities in the midst of a world that tells them that who they are is wrong.
Limit(less) is making this possible.
With Your Support
I am creating the largest digital archive of LGBTQ African immigrant narratives; thus far, it has been shot extensively in North America. But in order to finish the project and capture the full range of diasporic LGBTQ African experiences, I need to bring the project to Europe for a final sprint of shoots this fall.
This is made especially important due to several factors:
- Size of European African Community: There are ~4x as many African Immigrants in Europe as in the United States (7-8 million in Europe versus 2 million in the US).
- Refugee Crisis in Europe: Over 1 million refugees entered Europe in 2015 alone, with tens of thousands being African some of whom are LGBTQ. I would like to answer- Who are some of these LGBTQ African refugees and what are their stories?
- Anti-Immigrant Sentiments in Europe: Brexit, Marine Le Pen in the 2nd round of the French Presidential Election and Far Right Parties gaining ground with incredibly xenophobic rhetoric across Europe. This gravely affects the lives of LGBTQ African immigrants and creates unique experiences for them that I would like to document.
The groundwork has already been laid; there are 20 people already confirmed to shoot in Belgium, France, Portugal, the UK, and Sweden. All I need is your support to get there.
All proceeds from this Kickstarter will go toward travel, lodging, and living expenses in these 5 countries during my 4 months of shooting in Europe.
The final archive will be publicly available online on the Limit(less) website and will exhibit in gallery spaces globally.
Mikael discusses Limit(less) at the Never Apart Gallery in Montréal
Limit(less) has generated significant press and media attention over the past 3 and a half years, including:
Risks and challenges
The biggest challenge with this project is finding people to photograph and setting up relationships ahead of time. At the beginning of Limit(less), my first international shoots were in Canada and Trinidad & Tobago. I had some initial leads but nothing finalized until I arrived. With only a few days in each country, the time lost at the beginning of each trip to finalize participants made me hustle more to get the project done in time. I succeeded in finishing the portraits and interviews and I learned that nailing people down as early as possible is the most important part of planning. So, I spent the past 6 months prior to launching this Kickstarter doing extensive outreach to LGBTQ organizations and groups in all 5 of my target countries (Belgium, France, Portugal, the UK and Sweden). 20 people are now confirmed to participate, so I will hit the ground running without the snags I encountered in my earlier shoots.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)