Woubi Chéri

Woubi Chéri begins with a discussion of placemaking practices by queer subjects in Côte d’Ivoire. Looking deeply into the camera, two speakers describe how woubi can stealthily infiltrate public spaces and congregate. From this initial moment, this documentary centers the lifeworlds that Black queer subjects create and how community can be a form of power.

Following the opening of the film, viewers are introduced to the terms and identifications that Black queer subjects in Côte d’Ivoire use to name and claim themselves. There are woubis who are gay men who are often effeminate and ‘play the role of the woman’ and yossis who are typically more masculine men who are bisexual and partner with both women and woubis. All this information is relayed to the audience by Barbara, an enigmatic, lively, and unapologetic self-identified transvestite. The world of woubia presented in the film showcases the lives and worlds that Black queer subjects of Côte d’Ivoire have manifested for themselves. Subjects in this film both reach beyond the strictures of heteronormativity, while also replicating and remixing these relationships.

The tensions between the world of woubia and the straight world becomes a central one in the film. As viewers meet local transfeminine subjects and their struggles to participate in public life. Barbara and other trans* subjects in the film even start an advocacy organization so that they can combat prejudice, discrimination, and violence. In their own words, transvestite and transsexual people felt isolated and afraid to speak up, but since their finding each other they gained the courage to unite and organize for their human rights. Moving through topics such as relationships, family life, sex work, and future aspirations, this pathbreaking documentary opens up the world of woubia to viewers and places Black queer subjects and lifeworlds into the cinematic archive.