Ajamu X

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Ajamu X
Born1963 (age 54–55)
Huddersfield, UK

Ajamu X (born 1963 in Huddersfield) is a British artist, curator, archivist and activist. He best known for his fine art photography, which explores same-sex desire and the Black male body, and his work as an archivist and activist to document the lives and experiences of black LGBTQ people in the UK.

Early life[edit]

Ajamu was born in 1963 in Huddersfield to Jamaican parents. His grandparents arrived to England in 1958 and his parents followed in 1962.[1]

Ajamu came out as gay to his parents in his late teens and describes their reaction as "impressively progressive for the times".[1] He studied Black History and photography in Leeds. While in Leeds he and two friends, created the magazine BLAC, an acronym for Black Liberation Activist Core. In October 1987, after seeing it advertised in the newspaper Caribbean Times, Ajamu attended the first, and only, National Black Gay Men's Conference held at the Black Lesbian and Gay Centre in Camden. By January the following year, he had moved to London.[2][3] He was given the name Ajamu in 1991; it means "he who fights for what he believes".[1]

My name Ajamu X is a reference to Malcolm X who was my first key role model. Changing my name to an African one was very significant.

— Ajamu X[2]


Ajamu's work often highlights stories of black LGBT individuals who he feels are often marginalised from mainstream British Society; additionally he has chosen to focus on those who are black and openly "out" and have been accepted by their families. Ajamu has said he rejects the claim that Jamaican culture is particularly homophobic and believes that homophobia exists across cultures and families of all backgrounds.[1]

He often speaks of his work as a "sex activist"; he has run "sex parties for men who want to have sex with men" since the 1990s,[1] and same-sex desire and pleasure are recurring themes in his photography. His first major exhibition Black Bodyscapes, in 1994, focused on the private sexual realities of black gay men.[4] More recent projects include Fierce: Portraits of Young Black Queers. an exhibition of 24 portraits of a "…new generation of Black and proudly out young, emerging and established talent"[5] at London's Guildhall Art Gallery in 2014[6] and I Am For You Can Enjoy[7] with Khalil West, at Contact Theatre, Manchester, in 2016, which uses photography and video, to explore the lives of queer Black male sex workers and their clients. Ajamu has described himself as an "artist who has created an rchive"[8] and, in addition to his art practice, continues to document black LGBT experiences.

Write and record everything you do; no-one is going to write our histories for us.

— Ajamu X[6]

In 2000 Ajamu and Topher Campbell co-founded rukus! Federation[9] an " arts company dedicated to celebrating and showcasing the best in challenging, provocative works by black lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gender artists nationally and internationally."[2] Ajamu was the Archive Manager "The Black LGBT Archive Project", a major initiative to develop an archive collection on "Black Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-Gender heritage, history and lived experience in the UK".[2] In 2008 Ajamu co-curated the exhibition Outside Edge: a journey through Black lesbian and gay history at the Museum of Docklands.[10] The rukus! Black Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Cultural Archive was deposited at London Metropolitan Archives in 2010.[11]

Ajamu was the subject of Topher Campbell's first film The Homecoming: A Short Film about Ajamu in 1995.[12] The documentary film Brixton Recreation with Ajamu, directed by Danny Solle, featured his experiences of cruising and sex as a out Black gay man in Brixton.[13]

His fine art photography is in national and international collections including the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow, Autograph ABP, and the Neuberger Museum of Art in New York. Ajamu is co-chair of Centred, an LGBTQ community organisation, in London's Soho.[14]

Selected exhibitions[edit]

  • 2016 Khalil West and Ajamu - I Am For You Can Enjoy, Contact Theatre, Manchester (4 February - 18 June 2016)[7]
  • 2013 Fierce - Portraits of Young Black LGBTQ people by Ajamu, Guildhall Art Gallery, London
  • 2012 Future Histories, Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow
  • 2011 Queer Self Portraits Now, Fred, London[15]
  • 2010 Photoshow, Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York
  • 2009 Familiar Strangers, Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow
  • 2004 Hidden Histories, Walsall New Art Gallery,England
  • 1997 Transforming the Crown, Caribbean Cultural Centre, New York.[16]
  • 1994 Black Bodyscapes, Camerawork, London[17]
  • 1992 From Where I Stand, Brixton Art Gallery, London[17]

As Curator:

  • 2016 Curatorial Resident, Visual AIDS, New York[18]
  • 2008 Outside Edge: a journey through black British lesbian and gay history, Museum of Docklands, London[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e Surtees, Joshua (25 July 2014). "Ajamu challenges homophobia". Guardian Trinidad and Tobago. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d "Ajamu X interview". Sam The Wheels. Archived from the original on 2008. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  3. ^ Cook, Matt (2014). Queer Domesticities: Homosexuality and Home Life in Twentieth-Century London. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-137-31607-3.
  4. ^ Seery, Emma (28 March 2014). "Ajamu: Sexual Idenitifcation". Open Eye Gallery. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  5. ^ Minott, Zinzi (27 March 2013). "Fierce and That: Pondering the Work of Ajamu X an Original Afropunk". AfroPunk. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  6. ^ a b X, Zia (November 2014). "What is it to be Fierce? The photography of Ajamu". Open Democracy. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Khalil West and Ajamu - I Am For You Can Enjoy". Contact Theatre. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  8. ^ Vincent, John (28 February 2014). LGBT People and the UK Cultural Sector: The Response of Libraries, Museums, Archives and Heritage since 1950. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 3. ISBN 978-1-4724-0331-5.
  9. ^ "Love and lubrication in the archives: rukus! Black Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Cultural Archive catalogue launched". London Metropolitan Archives. City of London. 2015. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  10. ^ a b "Who works on an exhibition like Outside Edge?". Museum of London - blog. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  11. ^  , Ajamu (June 2011). "Celebrating History" (PDF). Runnymede Bulletin (366): 26. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  12. ^ Donnell, Alison (11 September 2002). Companion to Contemporary Black British Culture. Routledge. ISBN 9781134700257.
  13. ^ Avery, Simon; Graham, Katherine M. (6 October 2016). Sex, Time and Place: Queer Histories of London, c.1850 to the Present. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9781474234948.
  14. ^ "Trustees, Centred". Centred. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  15. ^ "Queer Self Portraits Now". Artlyst. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  16. ^ Eddie Chambers (29 July 2014). Black Artists in British Art: A History since the 1950s. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-0-85773-608-6.
  17. ^ a b Melanie Keen; Elizabeth Ward; Institute of International Visual Arts (1996). Recordings: a select bibliography of contemporary African, Afro-Caribbean and Asian British art. Institute of International Visual Arts and Chelsea College of Art and Design. p. 44. ISBN 978-1-899846-06-1.
  18. ^ "Introducing 2016 Visual AIDS Curatorial Resident Ajamu". Visual AIDS. 17 February 2016. Retrieved 13 April 2016.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]