Orokie/Afriboy/or A-Free-Boy was born in April, 1979, on “ a small island of Lake Victoria”, Uganda. He was educated there, in Kenya, and finally in Spain. From an early age, he drew secretly, using pictorial storytelling to explore his understanding of male-male love and sexual desire. (The word “gay” isn’t a term used by Orokie in his art, as he draws from African rather than Western traditions).
“I was grown drawing” he once wrote. And by this he meant more than “I grew up drawing”. Drawing was his education…it drew him out of himself, stretched him, and through drawing he learnt how to grow. At school in Kenya, where art was forbidden and water scarce, he painted using the water from drinks of tea.
Drawing developed Orokie's awareness of self and allowed him to shape his osotwa identity, which he felt was indigenous to Africa, part of its “tones of nature”. Osotwa, in Kenyan Maasai terminology, carries two important meanings: it is both the umbilical chord/navel and a bonded community. Osotwa is a sacred word for Orokie: it is a psychic link, an antenna chord at the centre of the body that links male lovers together.
|Osotwa 1 (showing fused navel chords).|
The graphite image was pure language for Orokie.
Eventually, he moved to ink, watercolour crayon and watercolour paint. He thinks in orokieglyphs, using symbolism and collages more easily than words and thus avoiding colonial language, the language of the oppressor that enslaved him and others and continues to do so. (This language is connected to The Bible and how it continues to be a source that justifies Africa’s hatred towards “homosexuals”). The following illustration is a good example of his humorous thinking and playful awareness of Hermes and Hermeticism, one that visually rhymes Hermes, the god, with Hermes, the fashion brand; African sexuality and Western capitalism; male super-models (Salieu Jalloh) and the racist commodification of the Black male body.
In March 2006, Orokie returned to Kenya for a visit. This became the beginning of a terrible ordeal in which he was attacked for his “homosexuality”. Whilst journeying home, he was wounded by an armed gang, receiving a panga blade to the skull. This and other injuries left him critically ill and facing blindness. Over a year, Orokie recorded this trauma in the Black Notebook Daler 3404. Orokie returned to full-scale painting in January 2008. He was never free of health problems, however, and had to cope with deteriorating eye-sight. In a series of works called Orgone, based on Reichian therapy, he later developed an hermetical symbolism (recalling the visual puns of Leonardo da Vinci) that notated his recovery towards drawing and painting once more.
The art of Orokie/Afriboy is a vital record of same sex love in Africa. His work has appeared in Black: The African Male Nude 3 (2006) and 8 (2008) and Mein Schwules Auge 6 (2009) and a careful selection of his work (chosen by himself) can be seen at the online Homoerotic Museum. The art of Orokie is individual, but always aimed to his African perception of sex, one that unites and serves a communal and political purpose.