Event Three

Afriquia: Activist Politics and Performance

Thursday 9 December 2021

with Lynette Goddard, Mojisola Adebayo, Topher Campbell, and zethu Matebeni

This one-day event explored Afriquia, as developed by the theatre artist and scholar Mojisola Adebayo, as a conceptual lens for considering queerness and African diaspora in contemporary artistic and activist research practices. The programme was organised around engaging with key works including Adebayo’s STARS (2021) and Family Tree (Alfred Fagon Award, Best New Play of the Year 2021), and FETISH (2018) by afro-queer artist Topher Campbell. The day also included contributions by scholar of Black British performance Lynette Goddard (lead organiser of the event), and South African queer activist and scholar zethu Matebeni.

This event was organised by Lynette Goddard (Royal Holloway) with Giulia Casalini, Eleanor Roberts, Cristina Fernandes Rosa, and PA Skantze (Roehampton).

Topher Campbell, Mojisola Adebayo and Lynette Goddard roundtable discussion on Afriquia: Activist Politics and Performance

Topher Campbell, Mojisola Adebayo, and Lynette Goddard in roundtable discussion

Campbell, Adebayo and Goddard discussed and reflected together on queer artistic and activist practices of the African diaspora, being part of a queer Black British art movement, and how these practices have evolved over, across, and beyond time periods. Campbell’s film FETISH (2018), Adebayo’s works including STARS (2021), Muhammad Ali and Me (2008) and others, and sites of community forged in the club provided some points of anchorage for a conversation on the links between generations of Afriquia practices in the UK.

Mojisola Adebayo introduces STARS (2021)

Adebayo’s play Stars (2021) is a ‘space odyssey telling the story of a very old lady who goes into outer space in search of her own orgasm.’ During the study day, it provided a launchpad for considering questions of Black and African perspectives on futurity, sex, and gender/sexual identities, travelling through times, and Afriquia imagination. Following Adebayo’s presentation, participants were invited to engage with the work, and consider how Afriquia concepts and methods might apply to their own research.

Family Tree (2021) and a response by zethu Matebeni

A response by zethu Matebeni (Fort Hare, SA)

In the afternoon, Adebayo led an interactive workshop on another new work, Family Tree (Alfred Fagon Award, Best New Play 2021) which represents the histories of Black women and their invaluable contribution to scientific knowledge. Matebeni responded to and extended from the themes that arise from Adebayo’s work and provided urgent contemporary perspectives as to the interrelationships between art and activism in African and African diaspora contexts. Matebeni connected Family Tree with Black and Afriquia struggles across time. Through poetic exploration Matebeni interweaved Adebayo’s work with the work and lives of Winnie Mandela, Sarah Baartman, Diana Ferris – and the significance of trees to the archives of Black women.

‘Afriquia: Activist Politics and Performance’ was organised by Lynette Goddard (Royal Holloway University of London, UK) with Giulia Casalini, Cristina Fernandes Rosa, Eleanor Roberts, and P. A. Skantze (University of Roehampton, UK). It is part of the Techne Conflux series ‘Queer Feminist Currents’, a two-year collaboration amongst researchers at the University of Roehampton and Royal Holloway, University of London. A series of research events are designed to provide a framework for interrogating key points of convergence and tension in contemporary queer, intersectional feminist and gender studies, decolonial critique, as well as theory and practice as interrelated. More information and documentation of previous events can be found at: https://queerfeministcurrents.wordpress.com/ 


Mojisola Adebayo (BA, MA, PhD. FRSL FHEA) has been creating theatre for 30 years, working internationally from Antarctica to Zimbabwe. Her plays include Moj of the Antarctic: An African Odyssey (Lyric Hammersmith), Muhammad Ali and Me (Ovalhouse), 48 Minutes for Palestine (Ashtar Theatre), Desert Boy (Albany Theatre), The Listeners (Pegasus Theatre), I Stand Corrected (Artscape), The Interrogation of Sandra Bland (Bush Theatre) and Wind / Rush Generation(s) (National Theatre, UK). Publications include Mojisola Adebayo: Plays One (Oberon Books), the co-written Theatre for Development Handbook (Pan Arts) as well as several academic chapters and contributions to play anthologies including Theatre in Times of Crisis (Bloomsbury Methuen). Mojisola is a Lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London, an Associate Artist of Black Lives, Black Words, Pan Arts, the Building the Anti-Racist Classroom collective and AICRE. She is an Honorary Fellow of Rose Bruford College, a visiting lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London and is currently on a research fellowship at University of Potsdam, Germany working on a collection of new projects addressing environmental racism, entitled White Climate. Mojisola is currently commissioned by Counterpoints Arts and Coventry Belgrade Theatre. Her latest plays, STARS (Tamasha Theatre and ICA) and Family Tree (ATC and Young Vic) will be produced in 2022. Last but not least, Mojisola is proud to be co-editing Black British Queer Plays and Practioners: An Anthology of Afriquia Theatre, with Professor Lynette Goddard (Bloomsbury Methuen, 2023).

Afro-Queer artist Topher Campbell‘s 20+ year output spans broadcasting, theatre, performance, writing, experimental film and site-specific work. His focus has been on sexuality, masculinity, race, human rights, memoir and climate change. Alumni of the Regional Theatre Young Directors Scheme. In 2005 he was awarded the Jerwood Directors Award and was nominated for the 2011 What’s On Stage Theatre Event of the Year Award. In 2017 he was longlisted for the inaugural Spread the Word Life Writing Prize for his forthcoming memoir Battyman. In 2000 he co-founded rukus! Federation, a Black Queer arts collective with photographer Ajamu X. This culminated in the internationally recognised rukus! Archive, currently held in the London Metropolitan Archives. The rukus! Archive won the 2008 Landmark Archive Award. His films have appeared in festivals worldwide including his first film The Homecoming, a meditation on art masculinity and sexuality, featuring commentary by Stuart Hall, which was also part of Isaac Julien’s film course at NYU. His latest film FETISH, a collaboration with 2014  Mercury Music Prize Winners is shot on the streets of New York. It was premiered at the Barbican Centre, London, Official Selection for the 2018 Aesthetica Short Film Festival and 2018 Scottish Queer International Film Festival. It was also a featured presentation at OOPS Festival Copenhagen and The British School in Rome, Italy. Topher is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Patron of Switchboard and in 2017 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Sussex, Brighton, England. His next film is a documentary about UK Black Queer history and culture for B.E.T. 

Giulia Casalini is an independent curator-artist based in London, currently a PhD candidate at the University of Roehampton. Her study analyses artists and collectives from across the globe whose live art practices have been informed by queer-feminist politics, aesthetics and ethics beyond the Anglo-American canons. She is the co-founder and artistic director of the non-profit arts organisation Arts Feminism Queer (CUNTemporary, 2012-2020).

Cristina Fernandes Rosa (University of Roehampton) serves on the editorial board of DSA’s Studies in Dance: Theories & Practices and the board of PoP Moves network. Born and raised in Brazil, Rosa earned her PhD from UCLA’s department of World Arts and Culture/Dance, then taught at various universities in the USA, namely UC Riverside, FSU Tallahassee, Tufts University, Reed College and CalArts. Rosa was also a visiting professor at Universidade de Brasilia (Brazil, 2011) and a research fellow at Freie Universität’s IRC Interweaving Performance Cultures (Germany, 2012-13). Rosa’s scholarship has been published internationally in peer-reviewed journals, edited volumes, and the monograph Brazilian Bodies and their Choreographies of Identification (2015). Her current research projects, Movements of Sustainability, explores intersections across diverse bodily arts, epistemologies of the South and cripistemologies.

Lynette Goddard (Royal Holloway, University of London) is Professor of Black Theatre and Performance. Their teaching and research is focused on contemporary Black British playwriting with a focus on the intersectional politics of race, gender, and sexuality. Their book publications include Staging Black Feminisms: Identity, Politics, Performance (2007), Contemporary Black British Playwrights: Margins to Mainstream (2015) and Errol John’s Moon on a Rainbow Shawl (2017). They are currently working on two research projects, one about Black British theatre directors’ processes and productions with a focus on the career of Paulette Randall,  and another project about how race is portrayed in contemporary plays through such themes as race, immigration and asylum, race, Black communities and the police, race and religion, race and the legacies of enslavement, and race and the rise of right-wing politicians. With Mojisola Adebayo, I am co-editing Black British Queer Plays and Practitioners: An Anthology of Afriquia Theatre. 

zethu Matebeni is an associate professor in sociology and South Africa Research Chair in Sexualities, Genders and Queer Studies at the University of Fort Hare. zethu has published extensively in African queer studies, HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ rights in Africa. zethu’s recent publications include Beyond the Mountain: queer life in ‘Africa’s gay capital’ (UNISA Press, 2021), the co-edited volume Queer in Africa (Routledge, 2018) and Reclaiming Afrikan (Modjaji Books, 2014). zethu is actively involved in queer activism in South Africa, is director and producer of documentary films, writes short essays and poetry which have been published in numerous journals, books and blogs including blacklooks.org and AWID.org.

Eleanor Roberts (University of Roehampton) is a researcher specialising in feminist histories of performance and visual art, and thinking about new ways of approaching the archive. Recent publications include those in the collections Live Art in the UK: Contemporary Performances of Precarity (2020), and Performance, Subjectivity and Experimentation (2020).

P. A. Skantze (University of Roehampton) is a theatre director, writer and composer working in Italy and London. Skantze is the author of Stillness in Motion in the Seventeenth-Century Theatre (2003) and Itinerant Spectator/Itinerant Spectacle (2013) as well as articles on creative practice, articles practicing creatively, and articles on sound, black critical studies, the Undercommons and gender.

Event information:

This event was funded by Techne and supported by the Centre for Research in Arts and Creative Exchange

More information about the ‘Queer Feminist Currents’ Techne Conflux can be found at https://queerfeministcurrents.wordpress.com/. More information about the Techne Confluxes can be found here. If you have further enquiries about this series please contact the organisers at queerfeministcurrents@gmail.com.

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