'wankiegbeze' (not in my name series), 2018, video still
Born Igarra (NG), 1982
Tyna Adebowale uses the body as signifier and tool to challenge traumatic histories and advocate for the visibility of queer lifestyles. She specifically targets consumerism, imperialism, patriarchy, and Christianity as pernicious foreign influences on traditional Nigerian structures of society, community, and cohabitation. Prior to colonial times, Nigeria was largely a matriarchal society with a flexible gender system in which queer people were valued. After many years of being influenced by British education and globally disseminated cultures, Nigerians have become alienated from their own background and identities, and today queer lifestyles and other modes of 'deviant' behaviour are loudly denounced. Adebowale aims to counter these imposed influences, and rejuvenate the knowledge, possibility, and appreciation of alternative modes of existence.
Adebowale makes drawings in which her androgynous alter ego and twin brother function as embodied connections to history. In addition, she collaborates with suppressed queer communities who have internalized dreadfully negative, colonial self-perceptions. Their collective films empower them as creative entrepreneurs, providing ways to regain their self-worth and (re)construct positive decolonial attitudes. Even though the videos are made in a Nollywood fashion and make use of amateur actors, they disseminate stories not shown in mainstream movies. Forcefully challenging the restrictive colonial systems and the suppression of previously accepted sexual lifestyles, Adebowale pushes for a revival of dual-sex gender fluidity and matriarchy. Through the representation of vibrant queer bodies and narratives, she wants to make these lifestyles visible and appreciated again.