Wednesday, 18 June 2014

A Road Trip Through ‘Invisible Borders’

From Oludare Richards

A Road Trip Through ‘Invisible Borders’

The Trans-African artist is the artist whose sensibilities transcends or goes beyond the pre-saved definitions of what constitutes art from Africa. They draw inspiration from exchange between people of diverse tribes and countries within the continent without having to compare, contest or seek validation for these sensibilities. They do not seek a definition of Africa in their ‘Africaness’ because Africa is what they make of it and not the other way round – Says photographer, Emeka Okereke, under whose coordination, the fifth edition of the trans-African cross-country initiative presents a group of artist an opportunity for adventure and innovation through experience, to serve as a medium through which photography is celebrated and exhibited in their bid to portray an Africa with ‘Invisible Borders’..

Founded in 2009, Invisible Borders has travelled by road across African countries and borders. Beginning with a trip from Lagos to Bamako, the Organization has travelled further to Addis Ababa, Libreville and Dakar. In 2014, up to 9 artists would travel for at least 150 days from Lagos to Sarajevo, Bosnia.
For the 5th edition of the Invisible Borders Trans-African Road Trip, 9 artists will travel across 20 countries and over 40 stops from Lagos, Nigeria to Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina. The journey will last 151 days beginning on June 2nd until October 31st, 2014!

The nine participants have been selected from five countries around Africa. They are: Dawit L. Petros, Photographer from Eritrea, Heba Amin, Filmmaker from Egypt, Breeze Yoko, a Video/Film & Graffiti Artist from South Africa, Lindokhule Nhlakanipho Nkosi, a Writer also from South Africa, Renee Mboya, Writer from Kenya, Tom Saater, Photographer from Nigeria, Angus McKinnon, Photographer from South Africa, Emmanuel Iduma, Nigerian Writer & Art Critic and Emeka Okereke Photographer and also the founder of the initiative.

“The impulses that led to this project came from the urge to question and look at the whole idea of a Trans-African exchange. We were a couple of photographers and writers who had planned to go to Bamako, then we made plans. Along the line we realised we had bitten more than we could chew. We decided to adjust fast, we had invested too deep. Then we thought, why not go by road,... we made the journey. It’s not a really new initiative, it’s been done even by Africans before like the Pan-African Circle of Artists, PACA, whose based on Arts, Lectures etc Ours came with the adventure, connectivity and knowing that being an artist but there are other things you can do to communicate your social activism beyond just writing and taking pictures,” Emeka said.
With the aim to enhance the experience of the 2014 road trip, they’ve decided to include the possibility of having guest participants on the trip.
“There will be media participants for the road trip of which four of them are crew (TV production crew and project managers) but the guest participation begins when we reach Dakar. They’ve have reserved seats to receive the guest participants at intervals of two weeks each, so through the 151 days trip, there will be approximately 10 guest participants,” said Emeka.
The guest participants will be chiefly writers, artists, scholars, politicians, curators, and art historians, or anyone working across the fields of arts and humanities, (students in these fields are not exempted as well) from any part of the world whose works are engaging and reflect a sensitivity towards issues in the same lines as those embodied by the Invisible Borders project.

The central idea behind the guest participation is to create a situation that allows for bouncing off of ideas and feedback between the permanent participants and guest participants who come in with fresh and divergent perspective on the actual trip.
The guest participants will be mostly experienced personalities in their respective field whose practices could also benefit from being on a project such as the road trip that proposes a totally different experience as compared to already established knowledge.

“This trip will be the first Trans-Continental Road Trip of the group and will be from Lagos (Nigeria) to Sarajevo (Bosnia) through 21 countries in Africa and Europe notably Nigeria, Republic of Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania, Western Sahara, Morocco, Spain, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and eventually Sarajevo in Bosnia, Europe,” said Emmanuel Iduma, a member of the collective.

“In the course of the last four editions of the Road Trip we have explored African countries from coast to coast and the Central African region. The impressions of the last four years have given rise to reflections and subsequent advancement of questions around the complexness of borders. The 2014 road trip is an attempt to advance to the core of what necessitates borders. The road trip project is an attempt to draw a tangible line of connection across chosen geographic locations in order to transcend the limitations proposed by the existing demarcating lines,” Emmanuel added.
Emeka, who has been part of all four past trips went on to describe his confidence in the success of the 2014 trip saying: “The most effective form of activism is optimism. Not just the African view of “E go better”optimism but the realisation of the fact that you can be in the mud and can’t get where you hope to get to without getting stained by the mud. The endeavours of artists during this trip will be to reflect upon the contrast between preconceived notions and freshly acquired perceptions for every displacement through places and people. Sandwiched in between these two positions is the Invisible Borders”.
The road trip will assemble artists from countries in Africa whose previous work are rooted in the reality of the African continent. It will be made up of photographers, writers, video artists, art critics, art historians and performance artists. There will be ten participants in a whole.
The journey will last 151 days (22 weeks) from the 2nd of June until 31st of October 2014. They will make stops of about five to seven days in major cities of these 21 countries. Besides creating personal works with their various mediums, the Invisible Borders participants hopes to develop varied projects in collaboration with local allies (Associations, Museums, Art Centers, Public Institutions, Artists, etc.), including exhibitions (installations, projections, performances), to offer the road trip experience to the viewer including exchange with the local audience through interactive art creation involving involvement of local artists and indigenes, in public spaces and chosen communities.
  The last four editions had featured names  such as  Lucy Azubuike, Okereke, Amaize Ojeikere, Ray Daniels Okeugo, Unoma Geise, Uche James Iroha,   Chris Nwobu, Nike Ojeikere and Kemi Akin-Nibosun, whose conceptual photography exhibition is currently on at Alliance Francaise, Lagos.

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