Lolo Arziki is a 28 year old from Cape Verde living between Luxembourg and Lisbon. They describe themselves as a ‘non-binary person, filmmaker and militant for the rights of black LGBT people’.
Lolo is currently fundraising for a film called SAKUDI; an experimental documentary which aims to ‘demystify our imaginary of black queer representation’. SAKUDI is an intimate portrait of the lives of six queer people. It features people such as ‘Patricia, a transsexual woman who is mute and therefore explores other forms of communication or Ima Tavares, a trans person in transition who grapples with his parents mourning his old identity’, to name a few.
Panoramic the Magazine: Your new film seems incredibly exciting, what books or plays would you recommend to people who want to learn more about African queer theory?
Lolo Arziki: I would recommend people to research homosexuality in pre-colonial Africa, there are a number of historical archives available online, from literary works, documents of Christian and colonial inquisition, photographs and theses. I would also recommend some films and videos like Pariah, Afripedia, Rafiki and Moonlight of course.
PTM: Where do you feel most inspired to write?
LA: Amongst nature - somewhere peaceful where I can hear birds and see the sea!
PTM: What is your main motivation to produce this film?
LA: In making this documentary, I had to do loads of research! Not only was this reading tons and sifting through archives but most importantly I lived with queer people in Cape Verde for 11 months. It is through listening to their experiences and understanding and comparing them to my own that I could really empathise. Therefore, I want to provide people the opportunity to do the same through film. I realized that rejection and homophobia in Cape Verde seems to come from a complete ignorance of LGBT+ communities. People never questioned why they were behaving the way they did and so homophobia just continues amongst this complacency. I want people to experience for themselves what it means to be LGBT+ through cinema screens - to be able to identify with these people, to understand that we are more similar than we are different! I hope this will help people to question their own ideas of love and identity.
PTM: Have you faced any challenges as an LGBT person in the film industry?
LA: Yes and yes again! Cinema is an area dominated by white, cis men. I am not accepted as a black woman let alone as a non-binary black and lesbian person! There are constant attempts to silence me - this film I am currently fundraising for is an example of that. Funding for this film was refused on the grounds it doesn’t respect a regulation which says that the project must promote cultural diversity. In reality, it is, of course, because it is about the LGBT+ community. They don’t like my film because it doesn’t feed their own ideas about what bodies are meant to look like.
PTM: How does your experience as a black non binary person differ between Lisbon, Cape Verde and other places you have been?
LA: In Lisbon, that is, in Europe, we suffer racial pressure, racism determines where I am and where I am going to go and in Cape Verde homophobia does that job. I always feel like I am being silenced for some reason, wherever I am. Within these places, however, I have communities that support me and it is for this community that I continue to live, that I will take this production forward..
I always feel like I am being silenced for some reason, wherever I am.
PTM: How do you care for your physical and mental well being amongst all this discrimination?
LA: Honestly, I don’t feel safe most of the time. I don’t think I even have a conception of actually how unsafe I am sometimes. Nevertheless, I will always fight the fights, and create art which challenges these boundaries because I would rather die fighting than live and be silent.
In relation to my mental health, I have been looking for some ancient practices of therapies such as leaf bathing, meditation, I started taking kemetic yoga classes from home. This has been especially important to me in the current climate when we cannot be close to each other.
PTM: What advice would you give to other queer African aspiring artists?
LA: To the emerging black and queer artists I wish you a lot of wisdom and courage! Know how to rest when necessary, take care of yourselves and strengthen each other. Unfortunately this struggle is far from over for us, but amongst those who survive we will do justice to those, like us, who have died for being themselves.
PTM: What do you hope for in the future?
LA: Honestly, it’s pretty simple. I hope we regain our freedom to live and to be!
Lolo is currently fundraising for their film, check out the page here.
To the emerging black and queer artists I wish you a lot of wisdom and courage!