Central Africa

Sem sombras (unshadowed); A group show centering queer and trans African artists

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Sem Sombras (Unshadowed) is a group show that will centre the works of queer and trans Mozambican artists of various disciplines, including sound, visual and performance art. Sem Sombras was one of the winning proposals for apexart’s International Open Call for 2022/2023. It will highlight the ways that queer and trans Africans, with a focus on Mozambicans, are undoing enforced social norms and demanding rights, pleasure, and freedom.

Curated by Onyịnye Alheri, a Nigerian visual artist, and Carolina Policarpo, in collaboration with apexart, the exhibition will take place in Maputo, Mozambique from 25th of February, 2023 to 25th of  March, 2023. 

Image courtesy of Vanessa Dos Santos.

Participating artists from Mozambique are Yuck Miranda, Regular Panda, Michel Onésion, Vanessa dos Santos, Rita Couto, Marilú Namoda, Paulo Pascoal, Chonga Pessana, and Gessica Stagno

While participating artists from other parts of the country are Pamina Sebastião (Angola), Va Bene Elikem Fiatsi (Ghana), Amina Gimba (Nigeria), Batsirai Chigama (Zimbabwe), and Kyle Malanda (Malawi) amongst others. 

Kulela, 2019.

Image courtesy of Kyle Malanda.

The works that will be exhibited will illuminate the lived realities and creative expressions of queer and trans Mozambicans and other Africans, who are often targeted by institutions and erased from mainstream culture. The exhibition will highlight the survival and thriving of creatives who have carved their own path by simply being and daring to be their full selves without fear. It will investigate what it means to be queer in relation to oneself, others, space, time, language, and the State.

Mozambique is one of only 10 (out of 54) nations on the African continent to have decriminalized homosexuality. Yet LGBTQIA+ people still live in fear of exposure, harm and assault. In many African nations, being homosexual, queer and gender non-conforming is criminalized to varying degrees, in some regions punishable by death. At present, the Ghanaian parliment is deliberating on a bill that can make homosexuality punishable by incarceration (up to 10 years). In Nigeria, homosexuality is a codified crime punishable by 14 years in prison or death in the northern region. Even heterosexual and cisgender allies face criminal charges for providing support to LGBTQIA+ family and friends. This dangerous trend toward austerity and criminalizing identity sets a dangerous socio-political precedent, as such nations hold great influence over geographically smaller, less wealthy nations on the continent.

  • Onyịnye Alheri and Carolina Policarpo. 

There are people actively resisting and challenging these oppressive measures against queer and trans people existing fully. People like Alheri and Policarpo are curating exhibitions that will serve as a safe space for people to fully express their queer identities and share their experiences without restrictions. 

Sem Sombras (Unshadowed) will highlight the many ways that queer and trans Mozambicans and other Africans are not only surviving and fighting, but also challenging social norms and demanding rights, pleasure, and freedom for the LGBTQ+ community. The exhibition will feature selected artists who use creative mediums to engage in transformative cultural production and sociopolitical activism.


Iyanuoluwa Adenle is a graduate of Linguistics and African Languages from Obafemi Awolowo University. She is a creative writer and art enthusiast with publications in several journals. She is a writer at Art News Africa.

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