Saturday, November 15, 2008

Imaginary Portraits, Gay Lovers in History: Azande Warriors

I was asked by the Curators at the Leslie Lohman Gallery in SOHO to participate in their upcoming exhibition: Imaginary Portraits, Gay Lovers in History, which opens tomorrow (on my birthday) November 18, 2008 from 6-8pm. While I assumed there would be a healthy amount of artwork depicting lovers from Ancient Greece, the Romans, and even Asian lovers throughout history, I was challenged with coming up with something compelling that was distinctly Africentric. A quick search on the Internet yielded fascinating information about the Azande Warriors, a tribe of North Central Africa.

I was awe-struck when I learned that Homosexual marriage was an Azande traditional practice! According to extensive research and fieldwork by the British Anthropologist E. E. Evans-Pritchard, the Azande date back to the early 1600's in southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Unmarried Azande warriors routinely took on boy-wives, who would be between the ages of twelve and twenty. They would purchase these boys in exchange for spears, and their bond would be publicly acknowledged. The boys did not cook, but would fetch cooked food, and would perform other services for their husbands. In return, the husbands gave the boy-wives pretty ornaments, and he and the boy addressed one another as "my love" and my "lover". Interestingly enough, the Azande expressed disgust at the mention of anal penetration, so sex was had in between the boy's thighs.

Who knew?? I certainly didn’t!

I set out to find my models for the shoot that would accurately depict a portrait of the man/boy-wife relationship of an ancient Azande Warrior. One of the models K9obi), I had already known, but I put a call out on Craigslist looking for the young boy-wife "character", and got quite a few responses before settling on Jhaye. Both Kobi and Jhaye were the perfect match to how I had envisioned the African features of the models and the overall "look" and mood of the image. The shoot took place in a non-descript section of Central Park on a chilly September day, as we quickly approached the submission deadline. The models were troopers for posing wearing only loincloths in the wind and chilly weather, all for the sake of art! Thanks you guys!!!

Below are some out-takes that represent the evolution of the shoot and show the direction I was going in. The last image is the final exhibition portrait. The only adjustment I had to make was to enhance the sepia tone to give the feeling of an aged photo. Enjoy the photos (click to enlarge any) and hope to see you at the opening! The exhibition runs from November 18th thru December 20th.

Note: There will also be paintings, drawings, installations and other art including photography, reflecting this theme, by various artists at this group exhibition.

Imaginary Portraits, Gay Lovers in History
The Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation
26 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10013
(Between Grand & Canal)
Hours: 12 Noon - 6pm, Tue - Sat
Closed: Sun & Mon & all major holidays
Phone: 212-431-2609 Fax: 212-431-2666

The Final Exhibition Portrait. The right facial expressions, pose, composition and mood all conspire to make this my pick for the show.

Note: In the final print hanging in the gallery, I removed the nipple ring to maintain historical accuracy. The Azande Warriors didn't have nipple piercings.


Mark J. Tuggle said...

thank u 4 affirming the dignity, integrity & loving self-determination of our african-descended homo-ancestors. i'm inspired by your creativity! godspeed in everything u touch my brotha :-)

Corey said...

Ocean. Your photographs are beautiful, and I co-sign your choice of photograph to represent the collection. I love sepia-tone!
Congratulations and God bless your all of your artistic endeavors. PS: I'm sure (by now) you've heard of the book, Boy-Wives and Female Husbands: Studies of African Homosexualities by Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe. PEACE!

ReggieH said...

Excellent information and as always great photos. Glad to have you back

Ocean said...

I appreciate all the comments! Corey, thanks for the book info! I do plan to pick it up!


The pics are spectacular. Great job.

bashir said...

I made a point of checking out the exhibit and saw the usual focus on dik n butt, and white dik n butt at that! I almost walked out 'til I noticed your print. It stood out like a thumbs up! Thank you for always making a difference!!!

Jay said...

Wow. I came across your blog after you left a follow up comment to my comment on Dredlock's page about Kwanza.

Anyways, this post was really insightful. It's research, knowledge, and this kind of thoughtful contribution that will wipe of the layers and layers of ignorant mentalities when it comes to the gay black man.

I loved the photography, as well. It makes me miss New York like I have never missed it before.

Check out my blog sometimes.

Bahati Myhelatu Ansari said...

Thanks for this very historical information. I added you to my blog as a follower.

negritude said...