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Photography - Issue #6

The Quingdom ~ In Transition

Words and photography by DeLovie Kwagala

As a queer person living in Uganda, a country that condemns homosexuality and constantly rejects any form of expression other than the “normal”, I have seen and experienced first-hand the oppression, cruelty and injustice that we face for choosing to fight for ourselves.

I have also seen how the international media has focused on the brutality of the government, further perpetrating the ideology of violence for the consumption of the west, at the expense of those of us who bravely remain authentic, risking our lives and our social standing.

So I was inspired to celebrate our sacrifices by documenting the beauty of being true to oneself in extremely dangerous circumstances, and our wish for freedom. I simply want these images of my friends to normalise our freedom, to uplift and inspire anyone seeing them to be truthful to themselves.

However much I dream to glitter the streets and colour them with rainbows and laughter, this will bring us harm from a society that considers us undeserving of freedom. In order to keep my participants and I safe, most of these photographs were taken in enclosed or secluded spaces using natural light. Although these images may seem unremarkable to those in countries where freedom of expression is legal, we bear the pain of our freedom every day. For our own sanity, seeing ourselves portrayed in the way we so much desire to be - our normal - brings about a hope and a new faith, the force of which challenges our realities. The Quingdom is a gender fluid imaginary world, a momentary safe space to be free to be as one would like.

These images are not directed, nor are the words that accompany them my own. They are all from the hearts of those that sacrifice every day for moments of solemnity like this, to be validated in their own skin, to be perceived in both their most vulnerable and most confident states, to be able to become their dream selves, to be free to be.

“Being free - having freedom to express and embrace my identity - would mean the world to me. This liberty would give me freedom of expression and allow me all of my physical rights as a human being. I shall stop at nothing to ensure peace and love for all in my country.” Anna“I believe that being authentic is about living honestly, within the context of where you are. I am lucky to have the courage to be honest with myself, and those around me, without trepidation or fear. It’s a privilege that I hope all queer people can one day enjoy without having to sacrifice their safety or health.” Raldy (previous image)

“Gender fluidity and authenticity means never having to sacrifice any of the multiple versions of oneself to make other people comfortable or less anxious. It is not my duty to make myself easily digestible. Embrace variety - reject sameness.” Authentically Plastic

“To be visibly queer is a political statement in itself. To say I am queer and I am here and I am not going anywhere. To realise that fear is the driving force of their hate but to be fearless anyway, and to love anyway, is the poetic justice of a daily-lived queer experience. I chant for safer spaces.” Jesse

“To have a platform - dance - where I can be totally authentic and unapologetically me, saved my life. I hope that by posing here, I inspire at least one person that was in a bad place like I was before I accepted myself.” Llewellyn

“The happiest I feel is when I’m all glammed up. There is that peace that comes with it. It’s a whole vibe and I could care less what others think of me because I’m here and they gotta know!” Joaquin

“We found palaces in the dark ruins, pulled silk from rag heaps. We are not of the empire. We are glorious outliers. Vagabonds. Witches.” Raldy

“I’ve always believed that the more visible we are the harder it becomes to ignore us. The louder we shout for a place the harder it becomes to silence us. It’s taken me a long time to understand what exactly I am doing with my life. In some moments I still have questions. What is crystal clear is that I intend to break down barriers, debunk stereotypes and ensure the trauma that heteronormativity has left on my body will not be passed down to the next generation. Watch out world, here I come! Here we come!” Treyvonne

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