An invitation to The House of Kings and Queens

Published: Monday 31st July 2017 by Rich Sutherland

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This year is not only our time as the UK City of Culture, it’s also LGBT50.

Whilst the former celebrates our city’s freedom to create and express, the latter is a national event. Commemorating fifty years since the decriminalising of homosexuality, events are taking place across the UK to pay tribute and show solidarity.

Part of Hull’s celebrations is The House of Kings and Queens, an insightful exhibition of photography. Located in Humber Street Gallery’s Gallery Four, down the nearby Pier Street, it showcases the work of Lee Price.

Price’s travels took him to Sierra Leone in West Africa. Here, he found a home of a young transgender woman, who shares it with the LGBT community in Freetown.

With homosexuality still very much illegal in Sierra Leone, these images uncover a group of people who simply want to live their lives without oppression.

And it’s no coincidence that Hull has its own Freetown Way, as our city has been twinned with Sierra Leone for many years. Now, thanks to these photos, we can see what life is like for those who dare to defy our sister city’s overbearing social rules.

The images capture numerous situations, all of them within the house. Accompanying them is a set of printed quotes from its inhabitants, which are both beautiful and heartbreaking:

“I named this house The House of Kings and Queens because here, we can be the Kings and Queens that we are.”

Whilst this sums up the nature of the house, many of us will require more information to fully understand the context. The following notes should clear up any uncertainty:

“They look at us always, because to them we are freaks of nature.”

“In Sierra Leone, gays fear for their lives.”

These two short sentences shed light on the situation and emphasise its gravity. Not only is homosexuality frowned upon in Sierra Leone, it’s seen as repulsive and punishable by imprisonment, or worse.

And yet the images are very peaceful, sharing snapshots of life in a house filled with friends. From reading and relaxing to idly sitting by the curtained windows, the viewer gets a sense of true sanctuary.

Simultaneously, the safety of The House of Kings and Queens is scarily fragile. With just simple walls and a weak door protecting them from the world, the inhabitants must surely fear for their lives daily.

The House of Kings and Queens is both calming and thought-provoking. Gallery Four, a temporarily repurposed warehouse, is the perfect place for the exhibition, as its bleak interior has been filled with love, very much like The House itself.

You can find Pier Street just off Humber Street in the Fruit Market, opposite Cocoa Bakery. The exhibition runs until 24 September and is free to view, with Gallery Four open daily from 10am.

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Published: Monday 31st July 2017 by Rich Sutherland

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