The Illegal Project Part 001

Posted by Jayde Stuckey on

the illegal project part 001

photography & styling Daniel Obasi
models Daberechi UKoha-Kalu & Tobiloba Subomi
foreword Cassidy Robinson

In 2014, the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act was signed in Nigeria, criminalizing anyone participating in sexual acts, cohabiting relationships, or marriage. Most gay people are forced to hide their sexual orientation from friends and family, or be at risk for imprisonment, violence and in some cases death.

“There is so much to see and respond to. But it can be exhausting...everybody I mean everybody is hustling to try to stay on that glided side or make it over. There is very little government support to fall back on”

- student in Lagos, 19

In part one of The Illegal Project, Daniel Obasi explores sexuality, gender fluidity, and non-conformity. The subjects are styled to tell the multi-layered stories of diverse Nigerian identities, seamlessly bridging the gap between sexual orientation and gender. The designers included are Orange Culture and Tsemaye Binitie. Also included are interviews of four young people within the LGBT community in Nigeria.

“...You have to put up with a lot and be strong because people will break your heart....... It's so interesting how people frown on the queer crowd when they actually make up the celebrity circle.... It's all about keeping secrets, because even your family may disown you and then again you have the law.”

- student in Lagos, 21



“Being gay in Nigeria is like being a caged bird, but the difference between you and the bird is not in the biological sense. The bird still has its wings to flap around so there is a sense of freedom, which I clearly don't have, which makes it so hard to exist among humans. It’s not living, instead enduring life till you pass away. Most times, being gay in Nigeria is the worst thing you can ever be. Once you begin to gather sensitive questions about yourself, which you dare not ask or talk about with others in order to avoid adding more stigma and violent treatment to what you face on a daily basis. There are so many continuous haunting questions like Why am I different?, Am I an abomination?, Why has the loving Creator chosen me to walk this path?, Will it just be easier to end this life? And if I do die will there be a sense of a lost? After all he is just a gay abomination. These feelings have affected my life in all ramifications that I have began to develop a sense of self-hate, which I refer to as INTERNALIZED HOMOPHOBIA, which is the hating and fearing of your own self and sexuality.”

- laboratory assistant in Lagos, 24

“...I didn’t ask for this, I just found myself this way. In my experience of being gay in Nigeria, I have found that there are so many ills surrounding my sexualized urge, the worst of these is having a partner. Most gays in Nigeria don't want to commit, once you are gay, the term love doesn't exist. They tend to use you and move on to the next person. Another is the fear of walking into the wrongs hands, which I mean walking into the hands of homophobic person(s) who pretend to be gay. Once they catch you, they beat you, molest you, lynch you, steal from you, and post videos of it on social media, which in return gets them glorifying comments and more grease to their elbows. Most gay people in Nigeria are afraid of being themselves, including myself. We hide in the shadows in fear of the reflection of who we are. Once the “African Syndrome” sets in, and you reach the inevitable age of getting married. The pressure you receive from people and family to find someone of the opposite sex to get married to -regardless of not being attracted to them-begins. Flashing back to my teenage years, the emotions, the feelings of being haunted, the constant gossips, and even harsh treatment made me believe that the only solution was dying. So what else can I say, being gay in Nigeria has been a continuous living of trial and meticulous way of life in the hopes of the avoidance of people knowing who you really are. Being gay in Nigeria is like a caged wingless bird.”

- laboratory assistant in Lagos, 24

“Being gay in Nigeria is strenuous. You have to be in costume 24/7, well even in the bedroom sometimes. You have to keep up with other gays, family and not so popular friends (especially when you're not in the in-crowd). It can be time consuming and emotionally draining. With the most desirable guys on the down low, you can't easily find someone you like for something lasting. Everyone is frivolous. Everything is ephemeral.”

- architect, 24

Photography and styling — Daniel Obasi
Creative assistant — Lauretta Orji
Make Up — Jordanna
Hair — Happiness Etim Okon
Models — Daberechi UKoha-Kalu & Tobiloba Subomi

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