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Naked Protest

How to speak when expression is foreclosed, when the threads of exchange in a place such as Uganda – British, colonial, Ganda, American – are so tightly knit that they already anticipate resistance?

Address them directly in order to discard them. Rudely throw them out, because rudeness refuses to accept the silence imposed by a decorum legislated by power and exposes it as one of the many forms of corruption by which that power endures. As Stella Nyanzi states:

I think that in the repressive situation of Uganda, where I write from, polite talk has been domesticated, has been bashed, smashed, conquered, it is powerless. It doesn’t communicate with the oppressors. But vaginas and buttocks and penises and vulgarity, whatever it is, whether it’s written or enacted, communicate much better [1].

Words and bodies that elicit the long historical resonances of African women’s nude protests, the baring of breasts and buttocks, and in poetry, writing through the so-called obscenities of those bodies to challenge the true obscenities of authoritarian impunity that characterize the neo-liberal present. In this Instagram Live conversation between EM Mirembe and Nyanzi, which we entitle “Naked Protest,” they delve deeply into the embodied, dissident creativities proposed and enacted by anti-capitalist, queer, feminist, and anti-governmental futures.

This conversation was commissioned by the Center for Arts, Design, and Social Research, as part of the Commonplaces and Entanglements Research Residency IX, June 2020.

Naked Protest is part of Urgent Pedagogies Issue#5: Pluraversality



S. Nyanzi and E. Mirembe, ‘“I was anticipating that it would be banned before we even got it out” – Stella Nyanzi chats to Esther Mirembe about her poetry collection No Roses from My Mouth.” In Johannesburg Review of Books, July 3, 2020. Access at

EM Mirembe 

is a curator, writer, editor and researcher. A research fellow with the Center for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape, they have previously held fellowships with the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Center for Arts, Design + Social Research (CADSR), and 32° Degrees East | Ugandan Arts Trust. They were also the Managing Editor of Writivism, a pan-African literary initiative and have their writing published in Artforum, African Arguments, Africa is a Country, Johannesburg Review of Books, Literary Hub, and others. Mirembe is also currently researching the ARAK Art Collection.

Stella Nyanzi

Dr., is an award-winning medical anthropologist with specialization in sexual and reproductive health, sexual rights, and human sexualities in Uganda and The Gambia. She self-identifies as a radical queer feminist scholar, social justice activist, human rights defender, non-violent protester, poet, Facebooker, opposition politician belonging to the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), former aspirant for Kampala Woman Member of Parliament (2020–21), an ex-prisoner from Luzira Women’s Maximum-Security Prison, and mother of three teenagers. Her first poetry anthology, No Roses From My Mouth: Poems From Prison, was written while imprisoned in Uganda before she was acquitted after 15 months. She is a 2022 recipient of the Writers-in-Exile Programme of the German PEN Center, and a 2022 CAD+SR Faculty Fellow.


The conversation occurred on Instagram Live and is archived at

Kagumire, Rosebell and Nothias, Toussaint. “Digital Radical Rudeness: The Story of Stella Nyanzi.” Center on Digital Culture and Society, Annenberg School, University of Pennsylvania, Jan. 29, 2020. Access at

“‘I’m free at last’: Uganda’s rudest poet on prison, protest and finding a new voice in Germany.” In The Guardian, January 27, 2022. Access at

Nyanzi, Stella. No Roses From My Mouth: Poems from Prison. Kampala: Ubuntu Reading Group, 2020. Access at

Christopher Bratton, Dalida María Benfield

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