"XXYX Queer Africa: More Invisible" by Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko '09 Included in 'The Best American Essays 2020'

Amanda Breen
December 11, 2020

“XXYX Queer Africa: More Invisible” by Playwriting alumnus Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko ’09 has been included in The Best American Essays 2020, edited by André Aciman.

Since 1986, The Best American Essays has compiled an annual anthology of magazine articles published in the US. The publication is now a part of Houghton Mifflin’s The Best American Series. Each year, series editor Robert Atwan selects approximately 100 articles for consideration, from which a guest editor chooses 25 to anthologize. Joyce Carol Oates was also involved in the selection process until 2000. 

Mwaluko’s essay takes up the invisibility of African queerness, and the violence so often inflicted upon it. “LGBT Africa held two truths: you fuck, you die,” the essay begins, “Both truths were intimately woven like tapestry spun by a wild heart against an overreaching national government silenced from the world stage, answerable only to itself, wielding unmolested corrupted powers. If caught, the government had every right to kill you…”

What follows is an exploration of how the total erasure of African queerness—its lack of representation in the media and in the culture at large—perpetuates marginalization and violence. “We were invisible, that unreality within reality, a truth so true that when we first appeared they said we were a lie.” 

The essay’s final lines depict a future in which invisibility is finally brought to light.

“No more rigid identities. Now, we who were once the wretched of the Earth are its righteous gods—unscripted, complex, celebrated, powerful, freely divine human creations. Finally, our bodies are more than enough; they hold our song. Sing it!



Born in Tanzania and primarily raised in Kenya, Mwaluko has written several award-winning plays, which include S/HeAsymmetrical WeBlueprint for a Lesbian PlanetQueering MacbethBrotherly LoveTrailer Park TundraOnce A Man Always A ManMama AfrikaMwena Mweni, and Waafrika 123, among others. 

Mwakulo’s residencies include Resilience and Development (R&D) Writers’ Lab with Crowded Fire Theater Company in San Francisco; Emerging Writers’ Group (EWG) at the Public Theater in New York City sponsored by Time Warner Co.; Groundbreakers Group in New York City; Djerassi Artist Residency in Northern California; Freedom Train Productions; Ragged Wing Ensemble, and more. 

You can read Mwakulo’s full essay here.