Ajamu Ikwe-Tyehimba

Ajamu Ikwe-Tyehimba
British artist
Huddersfield, Kirklees Metropolitan Borough Council, West Yorkshire, Yorkshire and the Humber
Residence:  London, Greater London, London, England

Ajamu X (born Huddersfield, 1963) is a British artist, curator, archivist and activist. He best known for his fine art photography, which explores same-sex people 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 and work
Ajamu was born in Huddersfield to Jamaican parents. 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. He was given the name Ajamu in 1991; it means “he who fights for what he believes”.

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

His first major exhibition Black Bodyscapes, in 1994, focused on the realities of black gay men. 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” at London’s Guildhall Art Gallery in 2014 and I Am For You Can Enjoy with Khalil West, at Contact Theatre, Manchester, in 2016, which uses photography and video, to explore the lives of queer Black people. Ajamu has described himself as an “artist who has created an archive” 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

In 2000 Ajamu and Topher Campbell co-founded rukus! Federation 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.” 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”. In 2008 Ajamu co-curated the exhibition Outside Edge: a journey through Black lesbian and gay history at the Museum of Docklands. The rukus! Black Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Cultural Archive was deposited at London Metropolitan Archives in 2010.

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.

Selected exhibitions
2016 Khalil West and Ajamu – I Am For You Can Enjoy, Contact Theatre, Manchester (4 February – 18 June 2016)
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
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.
1994 Black Bodyscapes, Camerawork, London
1992 From Where I Stand, Brixton Art Gallery, London

As Curator:

2016 Curatorial Resident, Visual AIDS, New York
2008 Outside Edge: a journey through black British lesbian and gay history, Museum of Docklands, London
“Khalil West and Ajamu – I Am For You Can Enjoy”. Contact Theatre. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
“Queer Self Portraits Now”. Artlyst. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
Eddie Chambers (29 July 2014). Black Artists in British Art: A History since the 1950s. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-0-85773-608-6.
^ 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.
“Introducing 2016 Visual AIDS Curatorial Resident Ajamu”. Visual AIDS. 17 February 2016. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
“Who works on an exhibition like Outside Edge?”. Museum of London – blog. Retrieved 13 April 2016.

At A Stretch

By Jordan & Skinner
Melanie Jordan & Caitlin Skinner

Sat 17 Feb 2018, 2pm
Paisley Arts Centre
15 New Street, Paisley, Postcode PA1 1EZ
Ticket prices £5
Box Office no. 0300 300 1210 https://boxoffice.renfrewshire.gov.uk/

M and E live in a big city. Life is fast and it whizzes by them everyday. But, when they accidentally bump into each other, their worlds’ stop. This person is different, and these feelings are weird. M and E find themselves continually drawn together. Magical connections start to appear between them and they won’t go away. How will they learn to live together when they can’t seem to be apart? The story follows these two women as they become increasingly tied together and learn to negotiate the tricky world of close relationships.

A wordless visual theatre production for children and families with comedy, exciting choreography and breathtaking physical theatre from multi award-winning Jordan & Skinner.

Diva Magazine ★★★★★ “a beautiful and playful piece of aesthetically simple yet stunning theatre”

Three Weeks ★★★★★ “This show is funny, heart-warming and just glorious, no matter how old you are.”

Scotsgay Magazine ★★★★★ “A joy to watch. Get along to this pioneering treat of LGBT theatre”

Supported by Creative Scotland & Puppet Animation Scotland.

Jumpers For Goalposts

By Tom Wells
presented by Saltire Sky Theatre Company

Wed 28 Feb 2018, 7.30pm
Paisley Arts Centre
15 New Street, Paisley, Postcode PA1 1EZ
Ticket prices £8 (£5 conc)
Box Office no. 0300 300 1210 https://boxoffice.renfrewshire.gov.uk/

Follow the stories of Geoff, Danny, Viv, Joe and Luke who are playing in the Leith Gay and Lesbian five a side football tournament where fitness, friendships and fabulous Moroccan cuisine are put to the test in Tom Wells’ heart-warming and comedic look into gay culture and what it means to truly be accepted no matter your story.

“Saltire Sky are certainly stamping themselves as an impressive young company to watch for the future.”

Presented as part of LGBT History Month Scotland

Wicked Women

An evening of music & spoken word to mark International Women’s Day.

Featuring Carol Laula & guests, Lisa Kowalski, Marie Collins & Linzi Clark + more.

Thu 8 Mar 2018, 7.30pm
Paisley Arts Centre
15 New Street, Paisley, Postcode PA1 1EZ
Ticket prices £10 (£8 conc)
Box Office no. 0300 300 1210


“Scotland’s leading singer-songwriter” (Glasgow Herald)

“Laula’s songs deal with strength in adversity – especially from the modern woman’s perspective – on a personalised but universal level. (Q Magazine)

MiX: a season of equalities work

a new boutique season of work spanning LGBT History Month Scotland to International Women’s Day 1st Feb – 8th March 2018.

Featuring :

Full details coming soon

Presented by Outspoken Arts Scotland in association with:

  • Renfrewshire Leisure
  • Renfrewshire Council
  • LGBT History Month
  • The Equality Network
  • Streetlevel Photoworks
  • Paisley Arts Centre
  • University of the West of Scotland

Split Britches: Unexploded Ordnances (UXO)

Sat 26 May 2018
5:00pm // 1hr // 16yrs +
£8.50 / £5 / £4.50

Presented by Take Me Somewhere, National Theatre of Scotland
and Platform with support from Luminate and Outspoken Arts Scotland

Combining a Dr Strangelove-inspired performance with a daring forum for public conversation, Unexploded Ordnances (UXO) explores ageing, anxiety, hidden desires and how to look forward when the future is uncertain. In the Situation Room, twelve audience members are invited to become a Council of Elders to discuss the global issues of the day, as the company weave in satirical insights and humour. Adopting the characters of a bombastic general and ineffectual president, Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver of Split Britches present this interactive piece as equal parts comedy performance and urgent political discussion.

Split Britches continues with the duo and solo work of Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw spanning satirical, gender-bending performance, public engagement, videography, digital and print media, explorations of ageing and wellbeing, and iconic lesbian-feminist theatre.

Unexploded Ordnances (UXO) image by Matt Delbridge

Love Song to Lavender Menace

Love Song to Lavender Menace by James Ley
Directed by Ros Philips
In association with Royal Lyceum Theatre
Supported by Red Bridge Arts

Sat 28 October 2017, 7.30pm
Paisley Arts Centre
New Street, Paisley PA1 1EZ
Tickets £10 (£6 conc.) + bkg fee*
Tel 0300 300 1210 or click here
or email box office

An LGBT History Month Scotland Cultural Commission. Funded by Creative Scotland. Script developed with support from Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland. Thanks to the support of Edinburgh International Book Festival. Image by Waël Seaiby.

It’s 1987 and shop workers Paul and David are getting ready for a celebration of the 5th anniversary of LAVENDER MENACE, Scotland’s foremost lesbian, gay, feminist bookshop. From its humble beginnings in the cloakroom of an Edinburgh nightclub, (that saw a performance from the Village People!), this trailblazing venture has become the beating heart of Edinburgh’s LGBT community. But can it survive in Thatcher’s changing Britain of capitalism and commodification?


The play appeared as a reading at Edinburgh International Book Festival 2016. Garth Greenwell, internationally acclaimed author of ‘What Belongs to You’, appeared in a cameo role in the reading. Garth said of Love Song to Lavender Menace – “It does not seek to present a portrait that sanitises history or parallels ‘straight’ life; however, the evocation of desire, longing and the need to belong would strike a chord with any audience.”  Garth Greenwell

“I’m very proud to be a part of this play. As a gay Scotsman, this play has taught me incredible things about my own history, that I’d never heard before. I’m sure many generations will be grateful to James for cataloguing these significant events in such a beautiful and fun play.” Matthew McVarish (Matthew appears in Love Song to Lavender Menace as David.)

This is the right time to be telling this story. The argument in the play around capitalism versus community is what attracted me to it, along with the exploration of the feminist roots of Edinburgh’s LGBT activism. Love Song to Lavender Menace also alerted me to Rita Mae Brown, author of Ruby Fruit Jungle, and I’m very excited to share her and all the other characters with a Lyceum audience.” Ros Philips









Queer Champions

Queer Champions a landmark collaborative exhibition project by Ajamu, the Equality Network, Outspoken Arts Scotland, Street level and Equality Network.

Queer Champions is a series of black and white portraits of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer individuals in Scotland who are celebrities, artists, activists, campaigners, community workers, or unsung heroes.

Queer Champions captures the richness and diversity of a Scottish community.

This work will be exhibited in February 2018 as part of LGBT History Month Scotland.

Commissioned by Outspoken Arts Scotland

5-9 Feb, Scottish Parliament  (not publicly accessible)
Horse Wynd, Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH99 1SP

14 Feb – 2 Mar, University of the West of Scotland
High Street, Paisley PA1 2BE (Atrium)  (9am-5pm Mon-Sat)

5 Mar – 25 May, Rose & Grants
27 Trongate, Glasgow G1 5HB  (9am-5pm daily)

Outspoken Arts Scotland is a Scottish Charity SCO23620
Supported by Creative Scotland, Glasgow City Council and Renfrewshire Council

Presented with the kind support of 
The Scottish Parliament
the University of the West of Scotland
Rose & Grants Cafe

Artists Biography:  http://outspokenarts.org/ajamu-ikwe-tyehimba/

Participants: http://outspokenarts.org/queer-champions-2018-participants/

Fat Kid Running

TUES 13 JUNE / FREE / 7.30-9.30PM
Baker’s Arms, 87-91 Henderson Street, Edinburgh EH6 6ED
THURS 15 JUNE / FREE / 7.30-9.30PM
Eden Court, Bishops Road Inverness IV3 5SA.

What does it take to be at home in a body? How do you have fun moving in a world of body shaming and fat burning? Join Katherine McMahon as she takes you cross country on her journey from the fat kid skiving PE lessons, to a fat, fierce, feminist runner. This is not an inspiring before-and-after picture. It won’t make you thinner, or faster. It is a sometimes moving, sometimes funny, always honest exploration of the complicated business of being in a body. Brought to you by LEAP Sports Scotland, Scottish Book Trust and Edinburgh Front Runners, followed by a panel discussion.
Book via festivalfortnight.org

Dive Queer Party

FRI 2 JUNE / FREE / 8-10.30PM (Doors 7.30)
Woodland Creatures, 60-262 Leith Walk, Edinburgh EH6 5EL

With Dive’s very own torchbearer Miss Annabel Sings (‘Divine’ TimeOut) leading the way to an Olympian line-up of cabaret athletes, riotous audience games and all the pyrotechnics the budget can stretch to! (BYOS: Bring Your Own Sparkler)

Competing for first place are Alice Rabbit, Mamoru Iriguchi, Phil Herrin and many more. Who will win
the coveted Golden Cabaret Stool?
Only you can decide….
On your marks.
Get set.
Book via festivalfortnight.org