Tiff Mugo: HOLAAfrica!’s brainchild talks about blowing up the continent with queer fun & educative content

In the heart of South Africa, where vibrant cultures converge, a fearless voice emerges. Meet Tiff Mugo, a trailblazing storyteller with a penchant for pushing boundaries and challenging norms. From crafting a quirky guide to sex that leaves you laughing and learning, to penning an erotic odyssey in ‘Touch’ that ignites your senses, their literary prowess knows no bounds.

But Tiff is more than just an author; she and her partner are visionaries at the helm of a Pan Africanist Digital Hub, HOLAAfrica! a haven where conversations about sex and sexuality flourish. Their current foray into the world of audio-visuals, the ‘Basically Podcast‘ and YouTube docu-series ‘Mxsterminds‘, takes us on a journey that’s both thought-provoking and titillating.

As a queer Kenyan writer, she weaves their unique perspective into every word, challenging stereotypes, and celebrating the kaleidoscope of human desires. Join us in celebrating this literary maverick who’s unapologetically rewriting the rules of storytelling, one tantalizing tale at a time as we dared to explore their world, where words ignite conversations and celebrate diverse desires with this exciting interview.

M: Your work spans various mediums, from books to digital content. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind creating HOLAAfrica focused on African sex and sexuality, and how it aligns with your work as a sex and relationship conceptual expert?

Tiff: HOLAAfrica allowed me to shape how I engage with my understanding of sex and sexuality. It is the beautiful thing about building the platform that you need, it can always help you. For example when my partner and I were thinking about engaging in kink, HOLAAfrica! Went full BDSM exploration, writing papers, contributing to anthologies, doing photoshoots and hosting workshops. The ability to engage with a myriad of materials to make sure that the knowledge we were producing and sharing was solid meant that we had to also delve deep into what we understood, and what we did not understand. How we needed to grow as curators and curating HOLAAfrica! was and is a constant state of learning and un-learning, understanding and engaging.

M: ‘Touch’ explores eroticism in a unique way. What themes or messages did you want readers to take away from this book? And what is the #TouchExperience?

Tiff: Touch: Sex, Sexuality and Sensuality was all about bringing together sexual experiences, the message we wanted to send was that sexual experiences are diverse, beautiful and a whole spectrum. We wanted to people see themselves in the stories no matter their sexuality and to understand that there are so many ways that your sex and intimacies can play out. The stories were all about bringing yourself and letting someone see you, and in turn themselves.

The #TouchExperience is all about the multiple ways you can learn and engage with the project, because it has other aspects outside of the book including a free-for-download manual How To Touch Me Properly, a playlist, and also had a whole VR art experience here in Johannesburg which featured the sounds of folx during intimate moments set to a physical exhibition and virtual reality element. The project had all the things! All the things. We wanted people to be able to find whatever pocket they wanted within the space. That, and me and Kim Windvogel (my co-conspirator) always have a myriad of ideas and we wanted to bring them all here.

M: Your recent YouTube docu-series ‘MxsterMinds delves into highlighting queers doing bold brilliant things. Can you share some of the most eye-opening or enlightening moments you’ve experienced while creating this series? And what’s the difference between this platform and the HOLAAfrica YouTube channel?

Tiff: One of the most brilliant things about creating this series was seeing how intimately people’s private lives interlock with their passions. How their identity can fuel something inside them that pushes them forward, rather than hold them back. For example, one interviewee, Lethloghonolo spoke about how growing up an awkward queer child led them to find a world of books and now they are a bad-ass book-influencing podcaster who is also a Caine Prize Judge. Or even the case of your very own Chris Murithii who has conceptualised and spearheaded this incredible platform, all intertwined and loved up on the because of their identities. This project is very specifically around the idea of queer people bossing industry, whereas HOLAAfrica’s YouTube leans more towards people and their intimate lives in a more private way.

M: “Basically…Life Podcast” is a compelling title. Could you give us a glimpse into the types of discussions and stories you cover on the podcast and how you hope they contribute to the conversation around sexuality?

Tiff: In the podcast, my guests and I have discussed everything from sex in Ubers, to being non-monogamous, to getting kinky, dating people of different ages, to race, to threesomes and so much more. The podcast looks at how people are living their lives without all the frills. It is not about being an expert it is just about being you. The point of the whole podcast is to show people that life is life-ing, that it is wild and chaotic and beautiful and the stories that people share are ones not only we can be entertained by but also learn from. The podcast is all about just sharing yourself because

M: Can you share some challenges you’ve faced as a queer living in South Africa and how your identity has influenced your writing and advocacy for sexuality and LGBTQ+ rights?

Tiff: This is one of the things I am actually, most grateful for, there is a freedom living here that has allowed me to do a great deal of the stuff I do. There have been moments where I have felt unsafe, and somewhat exposed as a queer person but generally, I have always had the space to move and this has been the core of my advocacy because I have managed to push the limits, push the boundaries, delve into the sex, sexuality and sensuality of the queer experience and move from that space and this is because I have had few challenges here as a queer person (other parts of my identity have been dribbled though at times).

M: Writing ‘Quirky Quick Guide to Having Great Sex’ must have been an adventurous endeavour. What inspired you to take a light-hearted approach to such a personal and often taboo subject, and what were some of the most surprising discoveries you made during your research?

Tiff: LOL! The adventurous part is not quite as adventurous as you would think, little sex was had to get the information. A lot of figuring out Quirky was about pulling from the knowledge that I already had as well as good old-fashioned deep-dive research and calling in the sex-positive squad. There is a lot of the book where I went and sought the knowledge of people around me and even asked them to contribute (some chapters are written by other folx). That’s one thing that is important to me in the book, to make it accessible and to do that it had to be community-driven as much as possible, hence calling in the squad. The way sexual information is given is always in such a deep and intense manner so I wanted the book to be very chill, like your best friend giving you advice over Chardonnay, something that is just a vibe. Because as I say in Basically Life, calm your tits, life is never that serious. I do not think I had any surprising discoveries because it has been 10 years in the sex-positive game so everything was like ‘ah, that’s where that has progressed to…’ One of my favourite things to discover though was the squirting story from Rwanda where the technique came from a queen who was sleeping with one of her guards. I would say that rather than anything being surprising it was more like new discoveries that added to old ones.

M: In a world where discussions about sex and sexuality can still be stigmatised, how do you navigate the challenges of creating content that is both informative and provocative while maintaining respect for diverse perspectives? The #FreakyFriday hype is real and am curious is it the best-performing post on the HOLAAfrica! page?

Tiff: For one we had our Instagram taken down and had to start again so that’s always fun! Navigating the ‘community guidelines’ and ‘books that are inappropriate’ and not being allowed to speak on certain topics in public spaces is difficult to navigate at times but one of the ways we do it is through partnerships and linking with the right people. Also, the online space is hard but also does provide the space to push back with these conversations. It is a constant balance of trying to not get banned from things and making sure the necessary information is out there, but also that the content is sexy and engaging.

And yes #FreakyFriday was a banger and was one of the most popular days along with #TikTokTuesdays!

M: “Pan-Africanist” implies a commitment to unity and solidarity among African people worldwide. How does your digital hub HOLAAfrica! contribute to this vision, and how do you see it fostering connections and understanding within the African continent?

Tiff: Being based in South Africa it would be very easy to simply exist here and do the work, however as HOLAAfrica! we always love doing the continental squad goals thing! For example, we have done sex, pleasure and wellness workshops in countries such as Botswana, Zambia, Uganda, Ghana and Nigeria. We have had people contribute to the site from all over the continent and even Touch: Sex, Sexuality and Sensuality had people from a multitude of countries. As a space, we understand that context is key and people are living a spectrum of lives and in the spirit of holding the narratives and stories of people in our space we need to ensure that all of them show up. The only way this can happen is if we truly engage with the idea of being Pan African, no space can simply be the focus. We want to make sure that the continent’s queer stories are being told and that the digital space we have brings together all these people as much as possible. What does this tapestry of existence look like and how can we contribute to sewing it together?

M: Your work has likely sparked important conversations about sex and sexuality. Can you share a memorable story or encounter where your work had a significant impact on someone’s life or perspective?

Tiff: Goodness! I don’t think anything comes instantly to mind but what I do love is when people say that HOLAAfrica helped them figure out their queerness as a baby gay, or how HOLAAfrica was one of the platforms that makes them feel seen. Knowing that we helped people figure out their intimate lives in a way that is comfortable to them is always so lovely.

M: What are some of the common misconceptions or stigmas around queer sex and sexuality in the African context, and how do you address them in your work?

Tiff: I would say there is a lack of knowledge rather than a misconception because there is no one thing that queer sex is. It comes in so many shapes and shades so there is no one way to think about it and it is more the lack of knowledge about the spectrum of it that is the wildest and most disconcerting thing. Understanding that ‘queer sex’ is something that has so many beautiful and different aspects is the most important thing and then understanding all the flavours you can taste within that space is also important. People think that queer people have sex ‘like this’ or ‘like that’ (usually fuelled by porn and other spaces) but it really spans so much more than that. And the thing is it is not only straight people who fall into that trap but queer people as well, never really tapping into the full potential of their sex. That is the work we do, we are like ‘Here, these are all the things that queer sex can be.’ Using the various platforms to give folx information, stories, narratives and experiences we want people to see everything their sex can be.

M: As a prominent figure in the intersection of literature, and sexuality, what advice do you have for aspiring writers and advocates who want to make a positive impact in these fields and explore themes of sex and sexuality in their work?

Tiff: Prominent figure? LOL, love this for myself. The advice I would give is to write about what interests you and inspires you. Yeah you will always be surrounded by trends and what is cool and funky, and some people will ignore the work that you do and some people will have thoughts about it but it’s always most fun and inspiring to write about the things that move and interest you.

M: Finally, what future projects or initiatives do you have in the pipeline, and how can people engage with your work and support your mission?

Tiff: As HOLAAfrica! we want to get back into the creation of physical sex and pleasure spaces. With COVID and life, we went online for a bunch of time and moved away from doing the physical thing but we want to get back into that in different countries. We have started those conversations which is very exciting and we are looking forward to going East, West and dabbling in the South as well using the knowledge and ideas in How To Touch Me Properly which forms part of the #TouchExperience. We also have season II of MxtserMinds in the works which is fun and also within the camp we have our own personal projects that are in the pipeline because HOLAAfrica! is our joint baby.

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