Global Roundup: Queer Palestinian Film Festival, Afro-Latina Plant Company, First Trans Model at Lagos Fashion Week, Brazilian Mothers’ Role in the Election, Mombasa Local Businesswomen
Curated by FG Contributor Inaara Merani
Courtesy of Philly. Photo via the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Last year, the Philly Palestine Coalition hosted the first ever Queer Cinema for Palestine Film Festival (QCP) to showcase and centre queer artists. With very limited room, the Philly QCP debuted three films last year which discussed Palestinian liberation. This year, the festival will span three days with nine films, two venues, and two panel discussions.
I’m excited for people to see how art, film festivals can have politics ingrained into the event. I’m excited about this spotlight being put on queer Arab cinema and indigenous cinema. – Nour Qutyan
Pinkwashing Exposed: Seattle Fights Back! will kick off the festival as it follows queer, Palestinian, and Jewish organizers who, in 2012, persuaded the Seattle LGBT Commission to cancel a pro-Israel LGBTQ event. Over the course of the festival, a number of short queer and indigenous films will also be showcased, with filmmakers from Brazil, South Africa, the Philippines, and Hawaii.
Leading organizer Nour Qutyan commented that the project began very small, but eventually became this large, highly-sought-after event. The festival is an opportunity to learn about the queer Palestinian struggle, as well as other queer, indigenous struggles around the world.
Credit: Instagram/ @tiaplanta. Photo via BeLatina.
During the COVID-19 pandemic in June 2020, Shayla Cabrera started Tiaplanta, a company dedicated to supporting plant lovers on their plant journeys. Cabrera has been a plant lover for many years and has been dedicated to helping others who share that love.
She correctly guessed that the houseplant industry was going to boom during the pandemic, but she did not realize the impact that it would have on her business. As more people began to purchase houseplants, she developed a larger clientele.
The name ‘Tiaplanta’ translates to ‘plant aunt’, gesturing to Cabrera’s Afro-Latina heritage. Cabrera combined her 15 years of experience as a professional nanny with her love for greenery, which then led to a portfolio of clients that she began supporting, which has now evolved into a professional project.
Clients reach out to Tiaplanta and can receive consultations on which plants to purchase and how to care for those specific plants, how to style certain spaces with plants, workshops to learn about plant care and basic plant knowledge, and more. Tiaplanta even offers a plant-sitting service for people who need someone to watch over their plants while they are out of town.
Cabrera emphasized that Tiaplanta is rooted in community, diversity, and education, and says her company strives to promote these values through its work. She encourages other entrepreneurs to rethink what their businesses can look like so that they can innovate and thrive.
Fola Francis in Cute-Saint. Credit: Ileleji Prince. Photo via Xtra Magazine.
Trans designer and model Fola Francis just debuted at Lagos Fashion Week. She is the first trans model to walk at Lagos Fashion Week, which is described as the African continent’s leading fashion week. At a time when trans rights are basically nonexistent in Nigeria, Francis’ work is a huge win for the trans community.
One of the brands she walked for, Cute-Saint, is a genderless contemporary African fashion brand that values diversity. When Francis approached the company about walking in their show, the creative director of Cute-Saint admitted that they hadn’t thought about including a trans model; however, the company was eager to spread a positive message.
We believe that fashion has a major role in enhancing people’s perspective on things, and if everyone is afraid to do something, everything will remain the same forever. – Femi, Cute-Saint’s creative director
As a professional in the industry, Francis has felt overlooked because she represents a minority within the minority. After transitioning, Francis stopped receiving invites to fashion shows and events – she was essentially blacklisted by the Nigerian fashion community. But, she did not give up. Instead, she decided to contact people in the fashion industry and got herself invited to events, and eventually found her way back into the industry.
Once you’re visibly queer in the Nigerian fashion industry, people tend to distance themselves … but in my own case, I am very persistent. I’ll break down the door if you close it on me and will walk in no matter what. – Fola Francis
Aside from designing, modelling, and blogging, Francis is currently producing a documentary about her life, sharing the joys of being a trans woman in Nigeria. The documentary also highlights Francis planning a ball with her friends to allow the queer community in Lagos an opportunity to have a ballroom experience.
I want the Nigerian fashion industry to be intentional in creating a safe space for queer and trans people. Don’t say you’re looking for male and female models when casting. Leave it at ‘models,’ because this helps create a sense of safety without alienating anyone. Degender fashion, too. Not just for inclusion’s sake, but because you care about everyone. – Fola Francis
Protesters stand around a giant banner reading 'Mothers with Lula' | Tony Marlon. All rights reserved. Photo via openDemocracy.
Last month, many were fearful that incumbent right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro would be re-elected and continue to spread hateful and discriminatory sentiment during his term. A movement of Brazilian mothers, a digital community once focused on the challenges of parenting, became a unique space for political empowerment and helped Bolsonaro’s challenger, former President Luís Inácio Lula da Silva win the election.
The movement began on WhatsApp in São Paulo, after a group of mothers came together after the preliminary round of voting at the beginning of October. Worried that Bolsonaro was going to win the election after seeing his positive ratings in the polls, these mothers organized online to take to the streets and protest to defend their democracy.
After seeing the power of their movement in Sao Paulo, mothers around Brazil became involved, and soon thousands of women and their children were advocating to mobilize voters to get Bolsonaro out of office.
Brazilian women are estimated to make up around 53 percent of the electorate. Many women have been reluctant to fill out ballots in past elections due to their disappointment with the candidates’ platforms on protecting basic women’s rights.
As women voted around the country, they were met with harassment for declaring their intention to vote against Bolsonaro from their husbands, brothers, fathers, and bosses. However, the mothers’ movement insisted that everyone has the right to a confidential ballot. They began sharing videos using the hashtag #OVotoÉSeu (the vote is yours) and occupied streets with signs reading “Vote Like a Mother!”.
Ms Mwakoi shows a customer one of the items she sells at her boutique shop in Likoni, Mombasa County on October 24, 2022. Photo credit: Siago Cece | Nation Media Group.
Local businesswomen in Mombasa are using chamas to support women-owned businesses. Chamas are ‘merry-go-round groups’ in which groups of people pool and invest their savings so that they can eventually purchase goods of their choosing.
The contribution is based on the item’s price. For example, 15 clients who want let’s say a fridge, come together; then based on their financial status, they agree on the amount they will contribute. Some contribute twice a month. I keep the money, and at the end of the month, two customers take their refrigerator home and the chama goes on until each member has their appliance. – Bahati Mwakoi, boutique owner
In Kenya, like the rest of the world, inflation has had damaging effects on individuals and their businesses. In Mombasa, many women have been forced to close their businesses because consumers cannot afford to shop and business owners cannot afford to stay open without customers.
The chamas offer an opportunity for these businesswomen to keep their businesses afloat. In Mombasa, many businesswomen have banded together so that chamas can purchase goods from a number of different vendors. Working together to defeat their economic hardships has proved to be beneficial.
As businesspeople, we help each other sell. We have come together to ensure our customers get what they want through the chamas. Bahati Mwakoi, boutique owner
Inaara Merani (she/her) recently completed her Masters degree at the University of Western Ontario, studying Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies with a specialization in Transitional Justice. In the upcoming years, she hopes to attend law school, focusing her career in human rights law.
Inaara is deeply passionate about dismantling patriarchal institutions to ensure women and other marginalized populations have safe and equal access to their rights. She believes in the power of knowledge and learning from others, and hopes to continue to learn from others throughout her career.