Remembering Emmanuel Kamau aka ‘Auntie Ivy’ (1972-2019)

The Curator
Emmanuel Kamau Mukere (December 21 – 1972 December 17 2019)

Emmanuel Kamau Mukere, or as he was known, Auntie Ivy, passed away in Dallas, Texas on December 17, 2019. He was a few days shy of celebrating his 48th birthday.

Emmanuel had reportedly moved to the US in early 2007 after being involved in the foundation of Ishtar MSM, one of the oldest gay men organisations in the country. He is credited, in some accounts as the founder.

According to Other Sheep, he was the Director of Ishtar MSM for “around ten years, when he fled the US in February 2007.” In January 2007, Kenya hosted the 2007 World Social Forum, where LGBTQ activists set up a tent dubbed ‘Q-Spot’. Kamau was involved in the Q-Spot, with one image captured of him at the tent. Some gay persons were interviewed at the WSF which was attended by almost 10,000 delegates. Some were reportedly threatened after the interviews were aired on public TV and had to flee Kenya. Kamau was likely one of those who fled.

As Director of Ishtar MSM, “he was part of a Kenyan Government task force called The National AIDS Control Council.  As a spokesperson for HIV/AIDS prevention, Kamau has spoken to a committee at the United Nations in New York City, and at meetings in Ghana, Gambia, South Africa, India and Cambodia.  In Feb. 2007, at the World Social Forum held in Nairobi, Kenya, Kamau came out as a gay man to his fellow Kenyans.  The death threats that followed caused him to seek asylum in the Untied States.  Today he resides in Texas where he awaits the outcome of his appeal for asylum,” Other Sheep continues.

In 2016, Emmanuel Kamau was ordained as a church minster/elder. Raised a Catholic, Emmanuel is reported to have entered a Catholic seminary, ostensibly to study for priesthood. David Kuria, the founding General Manager of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), in paying tribute, said he and Emmanuel attended seminary together but that during a retreat, Emmanuel helped him to discover himself – he (David) was gay.

Kuria writes, “I met Emmanuel Kamau by accident – We had just completed catholic priesthood studies and our superiors in their wisdom decided in preparation for perpetual/final vows, we should have some lay people at the 9-day retreat; and in their wisdom a youth group from one of the catholic parishes in Nairobi, was what Jesus would have ordered! (privately we knew or guessed, the intention was to bring young girls to tempt us before the final step to priesthood).”

This meeting with Emmanuel, changed Kuria as he notes, “But as luck would have it, Emmanuel was part of the youth group – I really do not know how we spotted each other (those days there was no gaydar), but it did happen and for me, for the first time in my entire life it occurred to me that one can be gay and live a normal life. You see up to until that time I thought if you had what they called in the church disordered “homosexual feelings” then you could really only really just be celibate …. after meeting Emmanuel however I got that lightbulb moment that so radically transformed my life.”

“After the 9 days of retreat, I knew it was not a matter of if but when I would leave the seminary life…. That is the radical touch that Emmanuel had on people’s lives. I know many many others can tell of such radical impact!!!” Kuria adds.

Following announcements of his passing on, several activists and organisations paid tribute to the work and life of Emmanuel Kamau, who was described as warm, and welcoming.

Emmanuel Kamau was buried in Kenya on January 4, 2020 after this body was flown from the US. Below is a picture from his funeral service.

Image courtesy of Sue Phyllis

As a fitting hats-off to Auntie Ivy, here is an anecdote on who an ‘Auntie’ is:

In Africa, Emmanuel is also known as “Auntie Ivy” among gay men for his ability to counsel others in matters of gay relationships.  In places in Africa, it is customary for the aunt of the household to counsel the young men on courtship.  Hence, he has earned the nickname “Auntie Ivy.”  

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