AMA JOSEPHINE BUDGE: “An Image of Tomorrow: Reading Rotimi Fani-Kayode’s Bodies of Experience through the potentiality of Intimate Ecologies”
This provocation brings into focus the incredible archive of Nigerian photographer Rotimi Fani-Kayode, in particular the series Nothing to Lose (Bodies of Experience), as an embodied visual ideation of alternative Black queer futures; mycelially connected to dissident anti-colonial pasts. As the effects of climate change become increasingly violent along its multifarious front lines in the Global South, human and non-human worlds are forced to evolve, or to ‘become with in surprising relays’ (Haraway), but who gets to survive and how, who decides whose futures are prioritised or even imagined, and what demarcates sentience from non-sentience in order to constitute a “who” at all? Fani-Kayode’s visual legacy – taboo images of the Black homosexual/queer body in ecstasy – came to fruition in 1980’s Britain, born of an obsession with the Yoruba traditions he’d been forced to leave behind, the queer East Coast chosen-families he made as a young adult, and a commitment to capturing hauntingly fecundated Black British gay culture at the height of far-right Thatcherism. Facing a similarly far-right political and social moment, I return to Fani-Kaoyde’s intimate visual archive, in resistance to theoretical and literal afflictions of depression and (often white-washed) “anthropocenic despair” (Canavan) hazardous when studying climate colonialism. Utilising instead an erotic, speculative and aesthetic theoretical landscapes, I read the possibility presented by Fani-Kayode’s gagging limes and the at once majestic and poisonous Bird of Paradise imbibed. This provocation builds on analysis of Black British theorists, curators and artists Kobena Mercer, Ajamu, Renée Mussai, Robert Taylor and Fani-Kayode himself interwoven with queer, science fictional and ecological interventions by José Esteban Muñoz, Donna Haraway, Karen Barad, Samuel R. Delany and others to incite a call-to action, to futurity, to ecstasy.
Ama Josephine Budge is a Speculative Writer, Artist, Curator and Pleasure Activist whose work navigates intimate explorations of race, art, ecology and feminism, working to activate movements that catalyse human rights, environmental evolutions and troublesomely queered identities. Ama is a guest curator with Theatre Deli and a PhD candidate in Psychosocial Studies with Dr Gail Lewis at Birkbeck. Her research takes a queer, decolonial approach to challenging climate colonialism in Sub-Saharan Africa with a particular focus on inherently environmentalist pleasure practices in Ghana and Kenya.
Ama’s fiction and non-fiction has been published internationally and she is working on her first book: a speculative duology for young adults. Ama has worked with arts institutions across the UK and abroad including the ICA, Free Word, Tate, Wellcome Collection and the V&A. She has been published by Aperture, MIT Press (forthcoming), the Feminist Review (forthcoming), Critical Arts Journal (forthcoming) The Independent Newspaper, Dispatch Feminist Moving Image, Media Diversified, Skin Deep, Consented, CHEW Magazine, B. Dewitt Gallery and Autograph ABP, and commissioned to respond to the work of artists Travis Alabanza, Zanele Muholi, Gray Wielebinski, BBZ Alternative Graduate Show and Alberta Whittle.
Her installation work is currently being exhibited at Casco Art Institute in Utrecht, the Netherlands. She is convenor of I/Mages of Tomorrow anti-conference (Goldsmiths), co-convener of The Art of Not Doing conference (Birkbeck), co-founder of The Batty Mama queer black club & performance night, and initiator of Self Love and Ecstasy pleasure collective (aka SLAE).