Racial and sexual identity is grappled with in Seyi Adebanjo’s short documentary “Oya: Something Happened On The Way To West Africa!” The film tackles the disparity in identity between queer or gender fluid Africans in New York and in Nigeria, where Adebanjo was born. Adebanjo, who identifies as gender non-conforming, explained how stigmas in their home country toward the gender queer community came about as a result of colonialism.
“It was never anything wrong to be multiple genders in Nigeria,” they said of the pre-colonization era.
Adebanjo explained that the gender queer community of Nigeria still exists, but is not welcomed with the acceptance once found in the nation’s roots.
“There’s a level of freedom [in Nigeria] that doesn’t get readily acknowledged,” they said. “I hope people really get a sense of possibility.”
Nicky Enright, a Latino artist, created one of the show’s most poignant pieces on the scope of African identity in the world at large. His painting “Overturned” depicts a traditional world map flipped upside down with Africa in the center.
“There’s no reason to show the continents and the ocean the way we do over another way,” Mr. Enright explained. “It’s literally a Euro-center map. By flipping it, I make basically an Afro-centric map.”
“The whole show is saying, ‘take another look, take a real look at Africa,’” he added. “It is humanity’s motherland, where we all come from and yet it gets this negative connotation. I like the idea of overturning that. Symbolically I’m overturning this idea that Africa is somehow below, inferior and putting it front and center.”
Hostos’ Longwood Gallery, located at 450 Grand Concourse, will display “Bronx:Africa” from Wednesday, Feb. 3 through Wednesday, May 4.