Waafrika 123 Featured Artist: Antonio Banks

What role(s) do you play in the production of Waafrika 123?
I play the Chief.

Why are the stories told in Waafrika 123 important to share with the community?  
What is important to share with the community is a Queer love story full of integrity, honesty, and pride! The visibility of queer people fighting for the right to love and be loved is one thing that can bring allies and queer folk closer together.

Without giving anything away, what does your character bring to the story? What’s your character all about?
My character brings…mediation…as best as he can with what little opportunity is given. My character truly is about communicating the fact that love defeats tradition(s).

What has been challenging and/or rewarding about working on the production of Waafrika 123?
The most rewarding thing about this production is the cast and crew! And how engaged and passionate everyone is about not just “doing theatre”, but immersing themselves in the political history of Kenya, and LGBTQ issues relating to our domestic communities and Kenyan communities!

Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production? Have you been involved with 20% Theatre in the past and, if so, in what ways? 
This is my 20% Theatre debut! Honestly, the “artistic experience” I’m bringing to Waafrika 123 is that I know who I am as an artist and I know what I want as an artist, which is to be my own genius while learning and growing with the minds of other geniuses. Also, I celebrate the importance of just simply showing up to rehearse and showing out…remembering to HAVE FUN!

What social issues are important to you and how do they inform the art you create?
LGBTQ social issues!!!! There’s every truth in [this]: before you can be proud, you have to be loud! Being an artist, and being visible in the fight for LGBTQ rights is the way I understand how to navigate my life. I [approach] LGBTQ social issues as a teacher. And what other way to communicate social change than through art!

What other artists or performances have inspired you over the years? 

James Earl Jones: Everything relating to Voice! Viola Davis: Great example of connecting humanity to acting. Jennifer Holliday and Billy Porter: Love how they can tell the human story through song. Mary J. Blige: Her performance in the movie Mudbound shows that you can strongly connect with the audience with the fewest of lines.