Erotica By An African Author: A Dialogue With Lusi Mbira
Lusi Mbira is a Kenyan Erotica author, based in Nairobi. He has four working titles to his name, yet to be published within the year by Libros Agency Kenya. He’s a photographer and IT expert by training. Writing and photography are the embers of his passion.
BY GIOVANNI PATRICK
This conversation took place in Kenya.
Giovanni: It’s awkward interviewing you because I’ve known you for so long, but for the record an introduction by yourself would be a good place to start, beginning with who you are, what you do and the inspiration behind it.
Lusi: Lusi Mbira is my name, not my real name but the pseudonym I use for my photography and writing. Born and raised in Kenya, I was drawn to photography in my early adulthood. My subject content is sensuality and erotica, and the environment that builds that world.
I’d say the inspiration started when I realized I have these cool, random ideas that I could play around with in my head and there was so much potential to explore them and I sensed what is possible and I’ve been trying to achieve it since. I felt that I could do a better job if I understood myself better through interacting, communicating and relating with myself and others rooted in the concept of sexuality and everything around it; from scars, to expectations to shame etc. My writing tries to lend a few things to the conversation. I don’t necessarily claim to know everything but I really hope that what I create is not only enjoyable but is also something that gets us involved and enables us to communicate better.
I also feel that a lot of erotica is written by women for women. Perhaps, from my personal exposure, but we haven’t had as much from the male perspective on sexuality and especially with a sensual tone in it.
Giovanni: Would you say your work is based on personal experiences or is influenced by the same?
Lusi: It is, it definitely is. At this point, I’d be shy to share how much is influenced by personal experiences but I’d also add that it’s influenced by experiences of others, conversations that I’ve had with other folks. I’d simply say it varies from project to project. I do sometimes consider myself a destructive artist and I think for those who have had eyes on my work shouldn’t be surprised to find something that’s too much for them to handle. Nevertheless, I’m working with a great support structure editing wise and Libros Agency will present it in a way the teaspoon is sweet enough and small enough to handle in good doses. It will be a trip!
“I felt that I could do a better job if I understood myself better through interacting, communicating and relating with myself and others rooted in the concept of sexuality and everything around it; from scars, to expectations to shame etc.“
Giovanni: Where has your work appeared? Both photography and writing?
Lusi: I’m kind of popping up all over the place, this is a big year for me with my writing, I’ve been working on the titles Honey Drenched Sheets, – Usil -just to name a few, for over 3 years now and most if not all of it has been underground. My writing is yet to come out into the light at the end of this year through my publisher’s online bookstore. My photography is what started me off this creative path and it’s got a head start compared to my writing, over the years I’ve had my work on Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter. I’ll soon publish and print some of my work with a creative organization that works with upcoming local artists in Nairobi in collaborating with an expanded market. It’s work that is in the pipelines so I can’t delve too much into it. But you should expect an erotica exhibition and a print publication early next year.
The photography has opened up opportunities for collaborations from far and wide, and part of the creative process is thinking of a variety of different media by which my work can enter the conversation. Needless to say, I’m also observing the political climate here before I can unveil that, just yet.
Giovanni: You mentioned that you are a photographer, so do you incorporate your writing with your photography or your photography with your writing or are they separate entities in your creative world?
Lusi: I started photography before I actually got to write. I’ve been a professional photographer since the earlier part of this decade. And that was completely separate from my writing. When I did start photography though, I didn’t know I’d get into erotica but I wanted to get a better idea as to how we[humans] see each other, and that was the first time I turned the camera on myself. After doing a few self-portraits sessions, I started realising how juvenile my dabbling into the arts had been at the point. The more photo sessions I had, the more concepts I tried to capture visually, the more substance my characters got and the more depth my scenes got, which is why publishing has taken longer than anticipated but I really like the meat that it has as of now. To better answer your question, right now, they’re mutually exclusive. I really do feel they both have something to accomplish and it is important for them to have that freedom so that I don’t feel you like my photography is restrained because of my writing and vice versa.
Giovanni: Do you think you’ll feature some of your photography in your publications, in future?
Lusi: That might be a little early to say, and my primary advisor with the various title projects so far has been Giovanni from Libros Agency. And earlier this year, Sankara Were, one of the authors under the publishing house, put out a really good book which I really really liked. Sitting down together and really observing how something simple can be delivered so well. At first, it made me feel that there was no need to incorporate my photography within my written works but I later came to realize there’s so much I get to play with as a writer and photographer, so perhaps later on the might be a really good reason to incorporate my visuals into my literature.
Giovanni: Africa as we know it is very averse to the subject of sexuality, sensuality and anything on the peripheries of sexual content. What’s your take on erotica and Africa as a setting, and what’s been your reception with that subject in question?
Lusi: In as much as it’s still a taboo to talk about things like these, Nairobi as one of the more open-minded cities in the continent still struggles a lot in terms of liberties with freedom of sexual expression and because of that, there’s a lot of resistance from those who are conservative and want to keep things conservative because when you don’t “everything goes wrong” and then there are those within the liberal train of thought, or whatever you define it as, who wouldn’t necessarily be as open to considering some of the things that creatives hold dear. Interacting with peers and creatives has shown me there’s a lot of room for our involvement when it comes to the conversation on the subject right now, there’s a vacuum in terms of erotica from an Africans perspective and what we have to say about sexuality in general. When it comes to definitions of sexual propriety and communication, kinks, exploration and even said sexual expression, I feel if we had voices and people to say this is African with an Eastern, or Western or Pan-African influence we would slowly chip away the notions of sexuality or sensuality being things that need to be whispered about. It influences how we communicate with each other.
And it doesn’t just have to be the simple “microwave” I need to read a short story to get off-kind-of-thing. We have rich stories that can compete with Blue Is the Warmest Colour.
The reception I’ve had has been amazing. It’s been so good from the beginning and from very unexpected people such as my sisters, my grandma, my mum; They’ve been super, super supportive. And I’ve also been getting a lot of support from men which I think has also been very crucial in agreeing to support each other and being able to engage with strangers alike with of all sorts of orientation and having the different perspectives feature in my work.
I do believe that we have the right to get off on the sweetest way we can and I believe that Africans have the sweetest sauce source, the blacker the berry they say… I want to see this through, I want to be part of this.
Giovanni: I think that’s an interesting and wonderful place to end it. Thank you so much for the time, bro.
Lusi: Cheers, bro. Thank you for the opportunity, as well as Joy of Africa in Dialogue.
Giovanni Patrick is the founder of Libros Agency Kenya Limited and a budding author based in Nanyuki Kenya, with one title under a pseudo name and another in the works. When he is not working on matters of Libros, he spends time with his lovely wife, son, two dogs and two cats on the deck, with a book in hand or a spatula next to barbecue on the grill.