Cassava Republic Press has released the cover of ‘She Called Me Woman: Nigeria’s Queer Women Speak’, a ground-breaking collection of 25 first-hand narratives from a cross section of queer Nigerian women. Published by the company, it is set for release on April 24.
Edited by Azeenarh Mohammed, Chitra Nagarajan and Rafeeat Aliyu, a statement from the publishing company said that the “narratives give the reader access to the narrators’ innermost thoughts and explore what it means to be a queer woman within Nigeria’s often deeply conservative communities”.
Through their words, the statement continues, we learn of first loves, heartbreaks and familial pressure; the struggle to reconcile religion, sexuality and culture; the battle to be comfortable with one’s gender and sexual identity within communities that can be hostile and intolerant; the socioeconomic pressures and universal difficulties faced by women in Nigeria.
The collection restores agency, presence and humanity to Nigeria’s queer women by providing a platform from which they speak for themselves. Women from a wide range of class, religion and educational backgrounds take the reader on a sometimes celebratory, sometimes troubled but always insightful journey into their everyday life. The book covers the experience of queer women from across Nigeria, with narrators coming from Maiduguri, Zamfara, Imo, Oyo, Abuja, Plateau, Lagos, Ondo and more. It restores balance in the discussion on sexuality and gender, which can unfairly favour queer men. It brings into mainstream consciousness the existence and issues of queer women in Nigerian society, ensuring that their stories are told and their voices heard.
“This book is important to me because as someone who looks for clues on women’s sexuality in Nigeria’s history, I am often frustrated by the way scholars have painted a heteronormative picture. When we become history, no one will be able to say, ‘there’s no proof of homosexuality in Nigeria’ because of the existence of this book and others like it,” said Aliyu.
Designed by Maia Faddoul, the cover image features a faded-out picture of a Nigerian woman, gazing straight at the reader as if calling on them to look at her and acknowledge her existence. The use of varied colours on the cover calls attention to the diversity of voices and narratives in the collection. The subtitle is purple – a key colour in queer communities that has variously been used to represent lesbian pride, the spirit of the LGBTQ community, and a challenging of gender norms in its blend of blue and pink. The editors, Mohammed, Nagarajan and Aliyu, have collected stories that challenge us to rethink the meaning of queerness and womanness and this cover embodies it.
Mohammed is a trained lawyer and a queer, feminist, holistic security trainer, who spends her time training not-for-profit organisations on tools and tactics for digital and physical security and psycho-social well-being. Mohammed is active in the Nigerian queer women’s movement and has written on queerness and technology for publications such as This is Africa, Perspectives and Premium TimesNG.
Nagarajan is an activist, researcher and writer. She has spent the last 15 years working on human rights and peace building and is involved in feminist, anti-racist, anti-fundamentalist and queer movements. She currently lives and works in Maiduguri, Nigeria, focusing on conflict mitigation, civilian protection and women’s rights.
Aliyu has a BA in marketing and works in communication and research. Her research area is focused on sex and sexuality in both modern and historical Nigeria.
Started in 2006, Cassava Republic Press is a dynamic African publishing company with a clear mission – to change the way the world thinks about African writing. At their core lies a firm belief that the time has come to build a new body of African literature that links writers across different times and spaces – whether set in 21st century megacities, in little-known rural communities, in the recent past or indeed the near future.