Boo | Stories To Defy The Gender Binary
South Africa-based Italian social anthropologist and translator Agnese Roda and California-based Tanzanian author Nick Mwaluko present a collection of stories by African authors that challenge the Western gender binary from a decolonial perspective.
While compiling a large stash for my evening reading from the shelves of a bookstore in Cape Town, one late afternoon in June 2018, I spotted a copy of Africa Cities Reader II published by Chimurenga Press. I missed closing time at the bookstore by a hair, engrossed as I was in the book’s stories, which I urgently wanted to read.
With my stash, I rushed back home, then snuggled into my warm study, browsing through the pages of this newfound gem. One particular story, Str8, No Chaser struck me for it’s odd title that creatively used, perhaps even abused the English language. It incorporated in its title, the moniker “chaser” for local drinks within southern African social circles, which was all the more surprising to me because from the author’s biography, I could tell he was born in Tanzania.
In Str8, No Chaser, we follow a nameless, unspecified African protagonist searching for queer comforts in the form of sexual encounters while transitioning their gender identity from female to male. The protagonist is looking for “material” to know more about women, before becoming a man, even though the narrative arc does a great job at foregrounding a fluid, transitory space through which the protagonist navigates.
Characterized by an obsolete yet omnipresent concept of the gender binary, the character’s devouring and insatiable journey, offered me material and ideas to do what I love, which is translating, and through it, the possibility to connect to and at the same time go beyond the tragic limits of the gender binary.
That night, while looking for information about the author in order to find out more about the nameless protagonist, I found Nick Mwaluko on Social Media. It is from that initial online encounter the idea behind this project was born. We decided to look for new stories, from non-Western non-binary points of view that could help in the decolonization of both the mind and the body, freeing us from narratives and ideologies that no longer serve the common good. The Boo project wants to be a vehicle for reflection and openness, to identify gender concepts which, through translation into various languages, promote transformation. Boo offers illustrated African stories, presented in a black and white fanzine format to challenge the Western gender binary.
– Agnese Roda
Starting on December 9, every two months GRIOT will host a story in three different languages from the project ‘Boo. Decolonized gender-based stories’
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