Film as /and Popular Social Text: The Reception of John Trengove’s Inxeba/The Wound and Wanuri Kahui’s Rafiki
This article is interested in popular and institutional or state responses to the representations of queerness offered in the films Inxeba/The Wound (South Africa, 2017) and Rafiki (Kenya, 2018). Aside from portraying the marked homophobia that continues to circulate on the African continent, the institutional and state responses to the films have overshadowed the positive popular reception which has characterised conversations around the films on social media and public spaces. This article shows how social media functions as an
important space of contestation for diverse issues relating to non-normative gender and sexual identities. As these films circulate in different spaces and are viewed by diverse audiences, they elicit equally diverse reactions and responses. The article examines how viewers, in Africa and beyond, receive and engage with the queerness represented in the two films. It argues that the multifaceted reactions to Inxeba/The Wound and Rafiki are central to articulating important questions about what it means to be queer in Africa,
and particularly what it implies for black queers to inhabit heteronormative and patriarchal spaces on the continent. Through an analysis of the reactions and receptions of the two films in Africa and the global North, it is argued that it is possible to trace important inter-regional, intra-continental and intercontinental dialogues and conversations regarding the representation of queer African subjectivities. The intra-continental and inter-continental dialogues bring to light questions of gaze and viewing that are inherent in the circulation of queer-themed films.
Kewords: Inxeba/The Wound, Rafiki, reception, popular culture, queerness