By Hoad N.W.
There were few book-length engagements with the query of sexuality in Africa, not to mention African homosexuality. African Intimacies concurrently responds to the general public debate at the “Africanness” of homosexuality and interrogates the meaningfulness of the phrases “sexuality” and “homosexuality” outdoors Euro-American discourse. Speculating on cultural practices interpreted by way of missionaries as sodomy and resistance to colonialism, Neville Hoad starts off via interpreting the 1886 Bugandan martyrs incident—the execution of thirty males within the royal courtroom. Then, in a chain of shut readings, he addresses questions of race, intercourse, and globalization within the 1965 Wole Soyinka novel The Interpreters, examines the emblematic 1998 Lambeth convention of Anglican bishops, considers the imperial legacy in depictions of the HIV/AIDS situation, and divulges how South African author Phaswane Mpe’s modern novel Welcome to Our Hillbrow problematizes notions of African id and cosmopolitanism. Hoad’s review of the old valence of homosexuality in Africa exhibits how the class has served a key position in a bigger tale, one within which sexuality has been made according to a imaginative and prescient of white Western fact, proscribing an knowing of intimacy which could think an African universalism. Neville Hoad is assistant professor of English on the collage of Texas, Austin.
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27 Although the executions can be seen as politically generative, the acts that lead up to them cannot. In addition, the possibility exists of connections between the Mwanga episode in 1885–86 and the Wilde scandal ten years later. While I have not found any pictures or drawings of Mwanga in the British press, it is reasonable to speculate on how his physical appearance may have been imagined. Blind to its own highly elaborate ornamentation, middle-class British masculinity would probably imagine the costume of the kabaka—a leopard skin cloak, ostrich feather plumes, and naked chest28—as both hypervirilized (connotating despotism, hunting prowess, and naked animal strength) and paradoxically feminine in the perceived elaborateness of the display.
16 If, as even Ashe recognizes, the refusal of sex constitutes an act of political disobedience with drastic consequences for the future of the state, can Mwanga’s, or in this case his friend and ally Lutaya’s, desire for some corporeal intimacy subsumable under the sign of sex with a boy be simply depicted as unnatural desire or sodomy? The significance of the king’s interest in performing acts with his pages that can fall under the rubric of “unnatural passion” in a colonial representational field is complicated.
Mwanga, who is beleaguered, caught in a web of conflicting advice, shrewdly refusing to distinguish between the English, Germans, French, Anglicans, and Roman Catholics, tries to harness his corporeal plea-sures for political ends, a futile if fascinating strategy against the forces of colonial exploitation. His victims in contrast seem pathetic—silly, heroic boys, their virginal sphincters tightly clenched while they burn singing to Jesus, giving up not only their lives, but their birthrights, their land, and their future power as chiefs, all for an abstraction they had all known only for a year or so.