Simon Nkoli Collective Statement on the Passing of Kenyan Artist and Queer Activist

The Simon Nkoli Collective is deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Kenya’s visual artist and Queer activist, Kawira Mwirichia who holds a special place in the heart and soul of the Simon Nkoli Collective. Mwirichia undertook a bold project titled To Revolutionary Type Love, this project commissioned the conceptualisation and design of fabric kangas portraying LGBTIQ stories. Through this beautiful work, Mwirichia consolidated the many disparate queer histories found on the internet and revolutionised them into a colourful, collectable archive that traveled the world. In her own words, “these kangas are filled with our own stories of revolutionary history around the world, and we lay them down for ourselves in celebration of ourselves.”

Mwirichia’s passion for preserving the Queer legacy across the globe is a constant reminder that Africa remains central in the fight towards a humanistic life for LGBTIQ people. Her pioneering artistic expression documents the lived experiences of many Queer communities characterised by Queer love, her work centred on creating a kanga for every country and its Queer history.

The Collective stands proud to have received and exhibited her work on the role of South Africa’s Gay rights and anti-apartheid activist Simon Nkoli. Nkoli’s kanga wore the words “Haiwezekani, nyeupe na nyeusi pekee ziwe rangi za mapenzi” translated into English as “Black and white are not the colours of love. They never were.” Mwirichia paints a picture of Nkoli as one of the pioneers for the gay rights movement in South Africa.

Our hearts are heavy and sombre at her passing. As the Collective we would like to send our heartfelt condolences to those who loved and lived with Mwirichia, and the Arts and Queer communities in Kenya and the globe alike. We commit to preserve the legacy of her innovative and progressive artistic expressions, we also commit to protect her dream of preserving the Queer story.

Kawira, as you join the many spirits you portrayed through your work, we open our hearts and palms to say rest in power. May the gentle Light of love and peace surround as you move beyond. May you continue to live in our history for many Queer generations to follow.

We salute you Qabane, Lala Ngoxolo Nkokheli. Amathongo amahle akuwonge.

Leon Jamarie

Leon Jamarie

Leon Jamarie (he/him) is the digital editor for EXIT. He has a passion for social media, grammar and typos, and the upliftment and empowerment of BIPOC queer voices. When not chasing that illusive perfect selfie, you can find him at home with a good book and large bottle (yes bottle) of Sauvignon Blanc.

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