I am non-binary and a queer person, which means I technically do not exist in Kenya or in my home country, Tanzania. My community and I are under constant surveillance online from the government, and our experiences are repeatedly being invalidated by what is technically “natural” in the view of both society and the government. This invalidation of my life experiences has made me question the space I occupy, and I have recently found refuge in creating both digital and physical spaces which my community and I can safely albeit temporarily occupy.
While I have explored this concept through physical spaces, recently I have been more fervently exploring the 3D digital landscape due to the Covid-19 lockdown in Kenya. Blender, SketchUp and Rhinoceros 3D have become almost empty stages for my queer body to occupy without fear of invalidation or, worse, expulsion. Using a 3D scanning application, I have been capturing solid digital forms of myself and others, and placing them into infinite landscapes in which they can exist and interact without any physical limitations.
You can find an earlier exploration of this technique in my piece “Lacework” (2020), which was a 24-second film in a synoptic narrative from the fictional perspective of Time.
The artwork for this fellowship uses the technique described above and manifests as multiple 3D digital landscapes, created through the freedom that is only allowed when occupying the digital/online space. These landscapes are created specifically with queer East Africans in mind, through engaging online with the vibrant community that already exists. The landscapes are populated by multiple figures – abstractions of 3D scans of various individuals from my community.
The aim of this artwork to make my visitors consider their physical existence in the world and how much it depends on the validity, length and ephemerality of the moments they experience in their daily lives.
THIS WORK IS BASED ON...
This work is based on our reality, in which LGBTQIAA+ people remain unseen, unprotected and continuously uncounted in East African countries. It follows a thought I have been exploring throughout the year in which I begin to shape my own stories and realities rather than waiting for governments that refuse to acknowledge my existence.
Arafa C Hamadi
Arafa Cynthia Hamadi is a non-binary, multidisciplinary artist working in Tanzania and Kenya. They create artwork in various mediums that address the intersections of the conceptual and the physical, as well as the ephemeral and the permanent, in the hopes of provoking their visitors into considering their daily realities. Arafa’s work also explores their queerness in relation to space and occupancy. They work in the realms of 3D design, graphic design, sculpture and architecture.
All digital assets were created by and belong to Arafa C. Hamadi.
This work features Nyokabi Kimari (they/them), a multidisciplinary artist based in Kenya. Follow their work on instagram @nyokabi999.
The tweets featured in the artwork belong to Nyokabi Kimari (@nyokabikimari_), Marie Ainomugisha (@soafricane), Godiva Akullo (@amgodiva) and I (@auto_explorer). They are all non-binary individuals living and working in East Africa.