Two years ago, we began a documentary research project called Stories of Our Lives, whose aim was to collect and archive stories about the Kenyan queer experience, in order to counter the populist idea that ‘gayism is un-African’. We collected over 250 anonymous audio stories from some amazing people we met across the country - stories of first loves, heartbreaks, future hopes, acceptance, rejection and intimate humanness. As part of our plan to share these stories, we made a film based on some of them - also called ‘Stories Of Our Lives’.
It was a wild ride from then on - from the world premiere of the film at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, to the anticlimactic ban of the film in Kenya and criminal charges against the team, to receiving several awards, and having the film screen all over the world - we continue to learn so much from this unfolding adventure.
BUT - the film was only able to accommodate just a tiny fraction of the archive we had collected. We figured putting the rest of the stories in a book would be a good way to share many of them, and so - in our typical DIY fashion - we spent months transcribing a large portion of the anonymous audio interviews. This was a very emotional process for us - particularly listening again to many incredible moments in people’s lives - some tragic, some beautiful, some hilarious, many brave, many thoughtful, all precious. Apart from redacting the names and places in the stories to keep everyone anonymous, we have kept the narratives exactly as they were given to us.
We then decided to self-publish the book, which provided another incredible learning curve for us, and we’re SUPER-EXCITED to present the resulting book: Stories of Our Lives; Queer Kenyan Narratives - now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions.
We’re super excited to present this book in the context of other queer anthologies and documentary work that have been authored by Kenyans in the recent past. We are also thrilled about the conversations we hope this book may start. While it is often a difficult experience living an open and free queer life, there are still many queer Kenyans attempting to negotiate their identities, sexuality, gender, belonging, faith, family life, political involvement, work, school and life in society within the ephemeral spheres of safety and acceptance. This anthology acknowledges these individual decisions to overcome fear and begin deeply personal, and very political life journeys.
We’d like to thank ALL the wonderful people who contributed to this book’s existence; the hundreds of Kenyans who trusted us with their deeply personal stories, the other wonderful people who hosted us in their home-towns and homes while we were working on this project. We’d also like to thank all the partner organizations that helped us connect to the communities we met, and OSIEA, UHAI and Hivos for helping us see this project to completion.
We hope these stories will touch you as much as they touched and changed us.
With love, from the NEST Collective.