Anti-discrimination laws are often seen as catalysts in normalizing the taboo. But they’ll always be limited by the words and concepts in the broader culture that literally speak into existence a society’s acceptable range of experiences. In Mozambique, the national legislature passed some of the continent’s most progressive anti-discrimination laws. And the larger conversation that centered around those laws led to the elaboration of a terminology that now allows LGBTQ people to come out, to express their sexual orientation and gender fluidity. But those terms remain static. They haven’t been activated within the larger culture to expand the boundaries of its foundational concepts like family. So same sex and queer relationships remain the other. And to be the other is to face a constant threat, one that ranges in degree from the shame of “embarrassing” one's family to the physical violence meted out for engaging in what colonial-era Mozambique termed “vices against nature.” As a result, members of the LGBTQ community often continue living in silence, in an undefined space beyond.
To document the Mozambican LGBTQ community, then, requires an interstitial space, one where the normal inhibitions necessary for daily survival in a (c)overtly hostile society could melt away. Hotel Luso is a physical manifestation of that space, an old, art deco Portuguese hotel, now an hourly motel. A place set aside to express those needs and desires society would rather ignore. For the fifteen self-identified queers who participated in this series, Hotel Luso allowed for a degree of self-expression often denied to them, even in their most intimate spaces. This underscores the fundamental challenge faced by not just the Mozambican LGBTQ community, but any marginalized group fighting for recognition. The act of resistance does not end just because the law is on your side.
How to View
During the day, the installment can be viewed on monitors inside the ICP Museum and during evening hours, images are literally “projected” onto the windows of the ICP Museum; they can be viewed from the sidewalk outside the Museum and are most visible after sunset. Learn more about Projected.
About the Artist
Daniel Jack Lyons is an American photographer that has lived in Mozambique on and off since 2005. His process is informed by professional experience in human rights work and documentary portraiture. Lyons’ work is characterized by his ability to focus on individuals rather than their circumstances, giving his subjects agency in revealing themselves. This is meant both to honor their strength and resilience, and reveal a shared current of human emotion that connects the subject and viewer.