Wangechi Mutu Rallies Massive Support from Artists

in Support of LGBTQI Rights

James Powell

Wangechi Mutu discusses the Africa's Out cause on the organization's video.Mother Africa, see what your children are doing! On June 5, 2015 in the bosom of Chelsea’s burgeoning art district, Gladstone Gallery hosted the inaugural Africa’s Out! benefit, a fundraising auction of works by a galactic host of artists. 

The event was in support of Africa’s Out!, the LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex) rights organization which is the brainchild of Wangechi Mutu.  An enormously successful, international art world figure, Mutu seeks to use her renown to expose the devastating effects of racism, classism, homophobia and sexism. 

Africa’s Out! stems from Mutu’s concern about her friend and colleague, Kenyan journalist Binyayanga Wainaina. Photo: Africa's Out! webpage a Kenyan journalist who TIME magazine named as one of its 2014 “Most Influential People in the World.”  After Binyayanga Wainaina’s public coming out, Mutu says she “worried about him,” in an Africa’s Out video.  Wainaina and Kenyan writer and LGBTQI rights activist Wanja Muguongo were special guests at the Gladstone Gallery event.

We wanted to make the LGBTQI  issue “visible, make it beautiful, make it relevant for American minds and also bring together the African community that includes the Diaspora, the African American and Caribbean folks, and all those people who actually care about human rights, gay rights and people’s lives and people’s expression of their fullness," Wangechi Mutu explains on the Africa’s Out! video. The organization is a “big, powerful love fest of politically-minded culture makers coming together to do important stuff quickly,” she says.

Derrick Adams, Emanare, 2013, mixed media collage on paper 53 x 53The dire situation of LGBTQI people in Africa is described in the Africa's Out! mission statement which explains that “recent criminalization of gays in Africa is making it dangerous and impossible for many simply to exist…. (LGBTQI) voices are often silenced by physical abuse, jail, and in some African nations, Guests at auction event viewing Derrick Adams' work. Photo: James Powellstate-sanctioned death.”

The list of artists (see below) supporting Africa’s Out! cause with donations to the auction reads like a Who’s Who of contemporary art — Derrrick Adams, Mickalene Thomas, Cindy Sherman, Charles Gaines, Lorna Simpson and many more.

The Africa Out! benefit and auction became a first tier New York City cultural and political fete garnering support from public figures such as New York City cultural commissioner Tom Finkelpearl, Studio Museum in Harlem director Thelma Golden, and entertainment powerhouses such as David Schwimmer and Janelle Monae. Attendees were serenaded by Solange Knowles and captivated by the avant-garde musings of Ayo Jackson and spinning by Venus X and DJ Cuppy.

Curator Jamine Wahi and artist David Antonio Cruz at auction enjoying cocktails by a program sponsor, Ketel One. Photo: Africa's Out! Facebook pageAyo Janeen Jackson AKA Miss Appropriation performs at auction event. Her look is inspired by the fantastical figures in Mutu's collages. Photo: Africa's Out! Facebook pageIn a related event, on June 7, 2015, The Studio Museum in Harlem presented a screening of “God Loves Uganda,” a documentary by Roger Ross on the evangelical campaign to proselytize in African nations with values from the U.S. Christian Right.

“ I am so very proud of all the courageous artists and culture producers who have joined us in this effort — the first ever Africa’s Out!,” said Wangechi Mutu at the Gladstone Gallery event. 

We all left knowing that the revolution will certainly not just be televised – it will be sculpted, painted, sketched and curated!

James Powell founded the Hampton University Museum’s John Bigger’s Circle, a student support group. Now living and working in New York City, Powell is an art aficionado who says he “has insatiable appetite for knowledge regarding art and artists that depict the narratives of the African Diaspora.” He volunteers at the Studio Museum in Harlem and works on special projects at the Leslie-Lohman Museum in Soho.

Artist Donors to the Africa’s Out Auction

Derrick Adams (who donated, Emanare, 2013), Mickalene Thomas (Left Behind #2 Again, 2015), Nina Chanel Abney (Friends 333, 2015), Edgar Arceneaux (A Four Dimensional City Casts a Two Thousand Mile Shadow. A Solitary Wage, 2014), Firelei Báez (Untitled, From the "Geographic Delay Series", 2013/2014), Rina Banerjee (Severed suddenly from land she swam for freedom ran, hand and hand for out of land escaped the burden of a dictator s government plan, 2014), Aisha Bell (Neutral 1, Neautral Too, Neutral 3, 2014) Sanford Biggers (Lotus, 2013), Nayland Blake  (Untitled, 2015), Phoebe Boswell( V is for Vulnerable, 2014), Zoe Buckman (Cease, 2015), Zoe Buckman (The Blacker the Berry, 2014), Caitlin Cherry (Where You At?, 2015), Brandon Coley Cox (oh trust, we will meet again, 2014), Renee Cox (Sacred G Monster, 2015), David Antonio Cruz (it’s only castles burning, 2015), Leonardo Drew (Number 99X, 2005), Nicole Eisenman (12 Heads, 2012), LaToya Ruby Frazier (Mom Making An Image of Me, 2008), Charles Gaines (Numbers and Trees, Drawing 9, 2015), Heather Hart (The Dowser and the Jengu, 2015), Richard Hawkins (Sarrasine 6, 2012), Duron Jackson (State Correctional Institute, PA, 2012), Rashid Johnson (Untitled Print, Good Days, 2014), Titus Kaphar (Civil Union, 2013), Yashua Close (Plane Study 1, 2015), Simone Leigh (Untitled, 2013), Kira Lynn Harris (Buried, Partially, 2014), Carrie Mae Weems (Color Real and Imagined, 2014), Sam Messer (Blue Wave, 2015), Marilyn Minter (Wangechi Gold #4, 2009), Zanele Muholi (Isililo, 2013), Shirin Neshat (‘Wafaa’ from Our House Is On Fire Series, 2013), Rashaad Newsome (Left at The Cloud, 2014), Tameka Norris (Fishing for Compliment, 2014), Tameka Norris (In The Same Boat, 2014), Toyin Odutola (You Have The Right, 2015), Kambui Olujimi (Untitled from Blind Sum Series, 2014), Valerie Piraino (Papaya Pox I and Papaya Pox II, 2014), Cindy Sherman (Untitled, Male/Female Artist, 1980/2012), Laurie Simmons (Characters from the Movie, Nurse/Puppet/Baby, 2003), Xaveria Simmons (Untitled, Sketch Number 19, 2015), Lorna Simpson (Riunite & Ice #16, 2015), Alexandria Smith (Procession to the Rooting Place, 2013), Shinique Smith (Study for Love, 2015), Nari Ward (Which One?, 2010), Kehinde Wiley (After Pontormo’s  Two Men with a Passage’ from Cicero’s on Friendship’, 2009), Hank Willis Thomas (After Identity, What?, 2012), Saya Woolfolk (Preparatory Drawing for Disguise Exhibition at Seattle Art Museum, Sowel Helmut Mask Seattle Art Museum, 2014), Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (Vault, 2014).