Sexuality and Culture in Postcolonial Africa

Chidi Ugwu's picture
Call for Papers
November 20, 2015 to November 22, 2015
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Anthropology, African History / Studies, Humanities, Sociology

In Africa, there is a contradiction in attitude towards sex and sexuality. Many people on the continent shy away from discussing sex. In most African cities and villages, overt public display of affection is not too common. Yet, African music, dance and other art forms exude eroticism and sexuality. Although the same may be said of Western music and dance, sexuality in the West is not a thing of shame or concealment as in most parts of Africa. In most African societies, religion, including traditional African religions, Christianity and Islam continue to influence sexual thoughts, perceptions and acts. In other words, religion shapes the cultural perception of sexuality, and if fashion is one of those means through which culture is expressed, it is right to say that religion is also a factor in the genderisation of fashion and sexuality.

Although some African cultures and languages are not quite gender-specific, it seems that sexuality in most parts of Africa has been mostly a male-privileging phenomenon in precolonial and colonial times. With the great advances made in social (under)development in the postcolonial era, sexuality in Africa, like politics, apparently remains male-privileging, although some would argue that women have become more assertive and “liberated” and that men have begun to lose their privileged position in matters of sex. In the whirlwind of globalization, women in Africa are beginning to have more say in their own sexual needs. Not only that. In spite of the taboo embedded in culture with regards to sexual matters and the parameters of sexual correctness set by most cultures of Africa, as elsewhere, sexuality in Africa has taken a new turn in the post-colonial mélange as hitherto unspoken and forbidden sexual attitudes and acts now flash in the continent’s socio-cultural pan. In spite of stringent legislations in parts of Africa against some of the “new” sexual patterns, sexuality in Africa is taking a more “global” turn as the forces of postcolonialism clash with age-long traditions and taboos. 

This conference, themed “Sexuality and Culture in Postcolonial Africa”, therefore, aims at examining the history, role, evolution and patterns of sexuality in African societies and the transitions and changes in the perception of sexuality, if any, alongside shifts and reversals in gendered roles in the post-colonial turn. It will also explore the interface of sex, religion, fashion, politics and sexuality. Within the bounds of its aims and goals, the conference will be concerned with the influence of inter(net)nationalism and the social media on the anatomy of sexuality in Africa. To this extent, presenters and participants are expected to address any of the following or other related subthemes:

  1. Sexuality, Sex and Morality in Postcolonial Africa
  2. Sexuality and Gender Transmogrification in Postcolonial Africa
  3. Sexuality, Sex, Marriage and Procreation in African Culture
  4. Sex, Sexuality and God/Religion
  5. Sexuality and the Family in Africa
  6. Sexuality, Culture and Taboo in Africa
  7. Sexuality and History in Africa
  8. Sexuality and Politics in Africa
  9. Sexuality, Fashion and Gendered Roles in Africa
  10. Nudity versus Nakedness in Postmodern Fashion in Africa
  11. Sexuality and the Law in Postcolonial Africa
  12. Prostitution and the Economics of  Sexuality in the Postcolonial Turn
  13. Sexuality in Popular Culture in Postcolonial Africa
  14. Sexuality in Art, Literature and Visual Culture
  15. Sexuality As Creative Resource for Artist(e)s in Africa
  16. Sexuality as Communication Expression in Modern Africa
  17. Sexuality and Nollywood/Theatre

To participate, submit an abstract of not more than 200 words to, or before September 30, 2015. Abstracts should indicate the key words and the author’s institutional affiliations. Authors of selected abstracts will be notified by October10, 2015. The most suitable papers from the conference will be collated and peer-reviewed for journal and book publications.

The organizers will not be responsible for accommodation and feeding of participants. Although the conference organizers may assist in locating and reserving accommodations, they will not be committed to participants financially.

For details, contact: 08037244485, 08064514421, 08068092148, 08035273777,




Breakout Commemorative Exhibition

Theme: Gender, Fashion and the Transmogrification of Sexuality in Nigeria

Organised by the Art Republic in conjunction with the Pan-African Circle of Artists

Curators: ChuuKrydz Ikwuemesi,  George Agbo, and Richard Elekwa

Years ago, the concept of “bottom power” was easily associated with the feminine gender in the general politics of sexuality. In common Nigerian parlance, it was used to refer to the influence women could wield on men or in the social sphere on account of their sexuality. In other words, “bottom power” was a metaphor for sexual exploitation of the male gender by the female in the exigencies of everyday life. However, it also had its pejorative social connotations, especially when it was viewed as undue influence or the sexual harassment of the male by the female or the willful surrender of the male to the power and charm of femininity.

In most parts of Africa, gender roles and fashion were clearly defined, until recently, even where language (such as Igbo) was not strictly gender-specific. But the situation has changed considerably with the influence of modernization and the postmodern seamlessness that attends cultures and traditions even in this part of the world. Role reversal has occurred in different spheres of society and, not unnaturally, fashion is not left out. Trends and accessories previously easily associated with the feminine gender are now shared across board between male and female as the politics of sexuality also takes a new turn in this part of the world. Sagging and ornamentation have become dominant factors in today’s male fashion, especially among the younger generation. This obviously impacts on the politics of sexuality and role specification in society and puts a question mark on the ambivalence associated with “pan-gender” sentiments in parts of Africa.

This exhibition, therefore, seeks to use the evolution of male fashion in Africa (especially ornamentation, tattoo and sagging) as creative resource for art works (painting, photography, sculpture, video, installation) that can address the transmogrification of the notion of “bottom power” as a dominant factor in the social commerce that attends gender relations in Africa.


The exhibition will include painting, sculpture, photography, drawing and installation. Prospective participants are to submit six samples of work reflecting the evolution of male fashion in Nigeria with an eye on those aspects of fashion (especially ornamentation, colour preferences, tattoo and sagging) that allude to, or reflect, sexuality and related issues. Works that engage the subversion of normalization in sexuality through contemporary imported male fashion in these parts are also welcome.  A maximum of four works will be selected per participant. While the pictures of two works are to be published in the exhibition catalogue, others will appear in the general list of works. To participate, send your entries with the details and bio to or 


All submissions should be made by September20, 2015. Selected artists will be notified by September30, 2015.

Date and Venue

The exhibition will run concurrently with the conference at Institute of African Studies Museum, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Contact Info: 

Prof. Emeka Nwabueze, Director, Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria,

Chukrydz Ikwuemesi, Associate Professor, Department of Fine Art, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria,

Chidi Ugwu, Faculty Member, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria, 

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