Va-Bene Elikem | Multidisciplinary artivist, curator, mentor and a philanthropist | Teaching, counselling and advocacy | Kumasi, Ghana
Fundraiser: Save pIAR
PLEASE TELL US A BIT ABOUT WHAT YOU DO / YOUR ART/ PROJECT / BUSINESS OR SUBJECT CLOSE TO YOUR HEART RELATED TO THAT.
I'm a trans woman with the pronoun sHit if not She. I was born in Ho, Ghana and am currently living in Kumasi. I work internationally as a multidisciplinary “artivist”, curator, philanthropist and a mentor across several countries. I’m also the founder and artistic director of crazinisT artisT studiO (TTO), Our Railway Cinema Gallery (ORCG) and perfocraZe International Artists Residency (pIAR) which aim at radicalising the arts and promoting exchange between international and local artists, activists, researchers, curators, and critical thinkers.
As a performer and installation artist, I investigate gender stereotypes, prejudices, queerness, identity politics and conflicts, sexual stigma and their consequences for marginalised groups or individuals. With rituals and a gender-fluid persona, I employ my own body as a thought-provoking tool in performances, photography, video, and installations, ‘life-and-live-art’ confronting issues such as disenfranchisement, injustice, violence, objectification, internalised oppression, anti blackness, systemic indoctrination and many more.
1) THE BEST THING THAT HAPPENED TO YOU IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS?
The biggest thing that happened to me in the past 12 month is the joy of seeing my residency growing and the celebration of our 5th year anniversary regardless of the threat we faced at the moment with the anti-LGBTQIA+ Bill that seek to criminalised trans or queer owned organisations.
2) THE WORST THING THAT HAPPENED TO YOU IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS?
The worst thing that happened to me in the past 12 months was the violence and abuse I experienced at the border of Cerbere in France. The border police denied me entry, hit me on the chest and kicked me to the floor but no one intervened. I ended up spending a whole night in another city, Lyon Part Deu outside of the train station in the rain because they wouldn't allow anyone to stay in the train station at the night.
3) YOUR BIGGEST WISH FOR THE NEAR FUTURE?
My biggest wish for the near future is to be able to buy our own space for the studio and the artist residency that I run in Ghana because the current Anti-LGBTQIIA+ bill in Parliament criminalises landlords who will accommodate or rent their houses to queer or transwomen.
4) YOUR BIGGEST WORRY FOR THE NEAR FUTURE?
My biggest worry is the pending bill if not rejected and finally passed. I and the entire LGBTQIA+ community in Ghana will be prosecuted, jailed or even murdered on the street.
5) A CONTEMPORARY WOMAN YOU CURRENTLY ADMIRE?
The contemporary woman I admire so much is Emerita Professor Takyiwaa Manuh, a Ghanaian academic and author who is one the strongest and vocal allies of the LGBTQIA+ community by opposing the current bill and continually challenging the members of parliaments for violating human rights.
6) A SHORT MESSAGE TO OTHER WOMEN?
I just want to say to my fellow womxn that there is 'no giving up' till freedom and justice is served for all womxn and other marginalised groups across the globe. We are the hope, the light and the future of the universe, and we are the redeemers of humanity. When the last womxn dies the last human dies.
THE WORLD KEEPS CHANGING DRAMATICALLY:
7) HOW ARE YOU COPING?
Yes dramatically the world keeps changing with the rise in conservative and far right policies but I am surviving shall continue to push back and resist all forms of oppression until I stop breathing.
8) WHICH RECENT CHANGE/ EVENT HAS AFFECTED YOU THE MOST / HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU PERSONALLY?
The proposal of the Ghanaian anti-LGBTQIA+ bill has hit me hard and continue to affect my daily life with lots of anxiety and panic attacks.