Two trailblazing LGBT playwrights are risking their lives to put on plays in Africa

Two trailblazing playwrights have formed a partnership to spread LGBT harmony through a series of plays they are showcasing in Africa.

Katlego Kolanyane-Kesupile, who is transgender, and Adong Judith, an LGBT ally from Uganda, are risking their lives to showcase the plays. Queer Shorts Showcase Festival, Botswana’s first and only LGBT themed theater festival.

When their paths crossed when they were selected as TED Fellows, a group of global visionaries handpicked by the educational platform, the “artvists” decided to work together to showcase their work in Africa.

Their performances are particularly pertinent in a continent  38 out of 54 countries on the continent have enacted laws that make it illegal to be gay.

“I want to amplify the voices people are just not hearing,”Kolanyane-Kesupile said to CNN.

“We are not being celebrated for the work that we are doing. So we keep carrying this label of brave. I am not brave for living my life.”

Friend and fellow playwright Adong Judith is writing plays for her native Ugandan audience about LGBT issues, in a country where 96% of those surveyed by the Pew Insititute believe LGBTQ people should not be accepted by society.

One of her plays ruminates about a virulent anti-gay campaigner whose son happens to be gay and comes out of the closet.

“While I was at Sundance, the playwriting mentor I was working with at the time was gay. Here is the person I am working with to develop a play about the war in Uganda,” said Judith.

“If he were Ugandan, he wouldn’t be in a position to do that because of the danger and threat to his life.I thought to myself: If many Ugandans were to meet as many gay people as possible and have a personal relationship, there would be a lot more Ugandan gay people coming out of the closet.”