Vogue: "The New Exhibition Spotlighting Nigeria’s Marginalized Drag Community"

Edwin Okolo, Vogue, December 14, 2020

Across the course of this year, with the coronavirus all but eliminating the possibility of live performances, many creatives have been left scrambling while trying to make sense of the new possibilities of online concerts and augmented reality. But while this is uncharted territory for some, virtual spaces have long been a refuge for Nigeria’s drag performers. Beyond criminalizing gay marriage, the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act that passed in 2013 also outlawed public gatherings perceived to be in support of Nigeria’s queer community, including art exhibitions and performances. Forced out of physical spaces, the country’s drag scene has begun to thrive online. 


Documentary photographer and visual artist Stephen Tayo took inspiration from those Nigerian artists for his new exhibition, “What If,” which opened at the KO gallery in Ikoyi, Lagos, on December 10. To remain within the laws that punish overt support of LGBTQ issues, “What If” adopts an exclusively anthropological focus in its portrayal of drag. “I gained visibility as a fashion photographer at around the same time the Lagos drag scene began to gain mainstream attention with even fewer resources and opportunities than I had,” says Tayo, who has spent much of his career working with underrepresented communities in his storytelling for publications such as Vogue, i-D, and The New York Times. “I wanted to document their success, but in a way that was not exploitative. ”....