Already in its fourth edition of cross-country art mission, a group of artists, Invisible Borders, has brought younger and fresh faces into its fold while hoping to sustain continuity with the more experienced foundation members.
AS an initiative that launched into the creative sector in 2009 under the leadership of the photographer Emeka Okereke, Invisible Borders says part of its mission is to serve as a medium through which photography in Africa is celebrated in addition to collapsing cultural and other barriers across the continent.
However, the character of participants, especially in the last two years, has continued to witness changes, thus, raising concerns over continuity.
For this year’s edition, the team, few weeks ago, took off from Lagos with the hope of exploring about 14 cities before berthing in Lubumbashi, DR Congo on October 9, 2012. But all eight-member crew are new, except the leader Okereke and one old member, Ray Daniels Okeugo.
The last three editions since 2009 had known names such as Uche James Iroha, Lucy Azubuike, Okereke, Amaize Ojeikere, Uche Okpa Iroha, Ray Daniels Okeugo, Unoma Geise, Chris Nwobu, Nike Ojeikere and Charles Okereke as participants.
WHAT exactly led to the sudden change in the composition of the crew? Shortly before leaving Lagos with his new members, Okereke assured that there was no cause for alarm as “the foundation members are still working with Invisible Borders in the background.” For every edition, participation, he explained, is based on the personal schedule of members.
And to sustain the link between the experience of the older members and the enthusiasm of the young and new members, a publication will be released drawing curtain on this year’s edition. “It’s a bilingual book of about 300 pages of the Invisible Borders project. It will be a compilation of the four editions into a single book, featuring images and written materials from participating artists of all the editions,” promised Okereke.
This book, he explained further, “will attempt to curate the thought-processes of the artists while documenting, in detailed but concise arrangements, the trajectory of the project as well as experiences encountered during the tours. This book has already been commissioned and will be published by Institute Français of France and another co-editor.”
Emeka Okereke (third from left) and new members of Invisible Borders shortly before leaving Lagos for the 2012 edition of the group’s Trans-border art project.
FOR the 2012 edition, 10 participants: Okeugo, Jumoke Sanwo, Okereke, Jide Odukoya (Photographers, Nigeria); Christain Nyampeta (Video Artist, Writer, Scholar, Rwanda); Mario Macilau (Photographer, Mozambique); Lesedi Mogoatlhe - (Film Maker, South Africa); Falade Adebola Rayo (Writer, Nigeria) -- are scheduled to travel across Africa covering over 13,000 km within 48 days. The trip, Okereke said, was anchored on a Congo biennale Rencontres Picha, at Lubumbashi.
Still on bringing the past to flavour the present, he said the group would draw from the experiences of the previous editions.
And what kind of works should be expected?
“Participants are dedicated to creating works, which portray the dynamism, richness as well as contradictions of the various modes of existence of the African people. In doing this, they reject a simplified notion of Africa or a tidy definition of it, but instead hopes to create an archive of works, which ‘complicate’ the depiction of contemporary Africa, one which sees the continent as work-in-progress, rather than a foregone conclusion.
“However, this will not deter from exploring themes centered on socio-political discourses prevalent in the continent such as women’s right, the role of China and other economic world powers in the shaping of the African economy, nature and wildlife preservation/sustainability, as well as the infrastructural boom. They will equally explore fashion and music and their role in creating Trans-African relations. Artists are allowed to work from a more personal angle as well as create conceptual photographic, video and textual works. The aim is to tackle diverse but relevant issues as seen individually by each of the 10 artists involved in the project.”
On arrival in Kinshasa, and in collaboration with Rencontres Picha (the art biennale of Lubumbashi), the Okereke-led group will conduct a workshop and a conference. Also, “in 2012, works of the group will be shown at the New Museum of New York after the presentations in Addis Ababa and Lagos,” said Okereke.
He continued, “Following the completion of the Invisible Borders book in 2013, there will be a tour through 11 African cities featuring exhibitions and workshops of Invisible Borders alongside the book launching.”
Listed among the partners of the project are Prince Claus Fund, Canon Europe, Eencontres Picha, Doual’Art and Institut Français
AT inception in 2009, the group announced as its mission: “Inspired by the 8th edition of the Bamako Photography Encounters 2009, 10 Nigerians made up of photographers and writers decided to make a road trip to Bamako from Lagos in a black Volkswagen Mini bus rented from Photo Garage in Lagos. This project arose as a result of an urgent need to address the notion of dividing borders between countries on the African continent.
“It might sound paradoxical that while travelling by air might seem a lot faster and much more stress-free, it indeed suggests a feeling of immense ‘distance’ between places, given that one might call the singular borders suggested by the airport terminals as ‘virtual’, not tangible, providing a rather fictitious notion of displacement in real time; more so due to the absence of landscapes and other elements which serve as visual testimony to distance covered. Therefore this project is an attempt to acquire a much realistic sense of the similarities and differences between peoples suggested by cultural and geographical lines.
“The project has been termed Invisible Borders, a reference to the non-geographical demarcation, but rather that which could be easily missed, especially if looking at the lines in the map, or flying over by air.
“The most essential aspect of the project is not the final destination, but the journey; therefore, the participating photographers will produce works in form of photography and video while on the go, which will be exhibited during the main events of the Festival in Bamako.”