Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Dancing African Witnesses

The African drummers

The dancers - Mai, Davis, Rose and Queen
(with Ron, Cameron and Chris holding the flag behind)

Mai and Queen dancing

There have been claims by certain folks (the ones I've heard most are mostly bishops) that there just aren't any LGBTI people in Africa, that it's a Western perversion imported by the Europeans. This afternoon at Lambeth there were two events designed to demonstrate the incorrectness of that assertion.

There were two parts to African Voices: first of all there was African Drumming and Dancing on the lawn outside Eliot College, and second a panel discussion at Keynes College. The latter was a time for people from Africa to tell their story, as LGBTI people from various places in Africa. Unfortunately, I was on duty at the display, so could only stay for part of that event. The Dancing, on the other hand, got my full attention.

Location, we're told, is everything, and somehow I was standing in the right part of the field to be asked, along with Ron and Cameron, to hold a big rainbow flag as background to the dancing. As soon as the drummers started, walking towards the greensward, crowds started to gather. Davis and Queen and Rose and Mai, and later Stephen, were moving to the drums, and all sorts of people watched.

From my position behind the flag, I had a great view of the audience - about a hundred of them at any time (with lots of purple lanyards [bishops]), and a couple of hundred overall during the festivities. Most of the audience were really enjoying the happy dancing; some others (clearly from the global south) were watching with what my Glaswegian mama would call a "cold sausage under the nose" expression. Well, tough. Yes, these ARE homo-Africans, and they're proud and having a good time. (Those recoiling faces were exactly the people who needed to get the message, and there it was, right in front of their faces)

After the dancing was over, the drummers led the parade to Keynes college, and much of the crowd followed. There, six men and women told their stories and and responded to the audience.

Before I left, Davis Mac-Iyalla (the first speaker on the panel) pointed out that his native language, Kalabari, there are words for gays and lesbians. These are not western imports, they pre-date contact with Europeans. The actual "foreign import" here is Christianity.

A revealing afternoon.

Chris the flag-bearer


marjo said...

those that have eyes will see...may God bless the dancers and supporters for their courage

richardolatunde said...

Unfortunately we were duped as musicians into playing for this event, although we are certainly not anti-gay, we were filmed and photographed against our will.
I have long since recieved an apology from various parties but also recieved a denial of responsibility the BBC who filmed the event.
I have noticed that my and my colleague's photograph still remains on your website and I ask that you respectfully remove it herewith.
Whilst we regret that you may be victim of anti-gay abuse, we do not need to be wrongly identified as being in your group. As Nigeria moves even further away from your support with it's banning of gay marriage, we ask that for our own safety, we are not wrongly identified as being gay and can feel safe when we travel there.
For this reason, I implore you to remove this photograph of us from your website.

Thankyou for your understanding in this matter.