In London: Queer Creators of color are writing their own narrative – and having fun along the way

By Toby Clarke

Recently, “intersectionality” seems to be the word on everyone’s lips. Now often used to signal one’s virtue, the term has lost some of its once radical edge. However, a new generation of young, queer, and unapologetically black creators are redefining what the terms means to them. Through radical self-representation, these creators are bringing the term into the 21st century, forcing it to reflect the multiplicity of their own lived reality. 

I sat down with two of these creators, Ali and Fiona, to discuss love, loss, chosen families – and everything in between. The first of these two sit-downs brought me back to my undergraduate alma mater, SOAS University of London. Feeling out of place and, frankly, like yesterday’s news, I coyly waited for my interviewee’s arrival in the infamous SOAS student bar. After a few anxious minutes in which I pondered my interview strategy, a familiar voice brought my anxious silence to an end: “Heyyyy Toby Tobe.” It was unmistakably Ali. Dressed in red from head to toe, and exuding a confidence that filled the room, you could easily believe that, like many artists’, Ali’s path into the arts was one without question. However, over an hour, I caught glimpses of an all too relatable sense of self-doubt, a feeling that, despite his evident talent, the arts are something done by and for another – an abstract somewhere in the distance. 

Ali Akabar, ‘Hiding in my heart’, extras from video, colour, 2023. Courtesy of the artist.

One of nine siblings of Kenyan-Somali heritage, Ali begins by telling me that “he never considered himself an artist.” The pandemic, a seminal moment for many, led Ali to pursue his identity further, culminating in the discovery of what he calls his “chosen family.” One member of this family, Fahri, encouraged Ali to participate in her own creative project, ‘Extended Limbs’, which he describes as a “creative building block.” The film allowed him to “see himself in the arts,” giving him a doorway to further explore his artistic identity. While the film’s release was not without its drawbacks (its wide circulation would lead to Ali being “outed” to his Mother), it set into motion a process that would lead to the production of Ali’s visual project – ‘Hiding in my heart’. 

SMART. QUEER SMART.

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