For the past two weeks I have had an impossible itinerary (a word I have used a tad too often lately). I have been criss-crossing continents and cities to an extent that I am oblivious to the components and intricacies of space and time. Now I am in Paris. I always think of Paris in a love-hate manner, never conclusive of what I make of the city. At most, I am constantly aware of my affection for this city. It was the first city I visited and lived in when I came to Europe. It formed my first impressions of Europe, of the West, of the white race. And if one would go by the adage that “First impressions matter most”, then one might as well summarise any expression of disdain or scepticism for this city as a mere secret admiration. But “matters most” does not necessarily imply “loving most”. I would say that Paris was where my consciousness and insecurities of being regarded as the “other” became tangible and for that it will always …
It suffices to say that I am in Accra as I write. Yesterday we were out to Tawala beach where we convened as part of the IB Accra Project workshop. The idea is to have a sort of laid back afternoon reading and discussion around the works of some important thinkers and contributors to the African Critical Theory. We did – we read the likes of Reiland Rabaka, Mia Couto, Bonaventure Ndikung, and Emeka Okereke. We opened up on the topic of what is African? We deliberated on various point of views as to what Africa is, and what makes us Africans. Indeed, it was an interesting conversation session. I could invariably term it a feedback session for myself. It was rewarding to hear a few people caught within this African reality talk about how they perceive themselves in it. Take for example, Samuel Kolawole talked about finding the human essence rather than what labels we give to ourselves, be it African or whatever. Therefore to him Africa is a term still unresolved and to …
We have just returned from N’djamena after a very intense but super exciting 12 days. As some of you may have seen from all the postings on Facebook, the project was exciting and very well received by the N’Djamena public. The public engaged with the images displayed in a profound and unpretentious manner. They equally identified very much with the concept of Invisible Borders. What was intriguing (I believe, to them) was the fact that the exhibition featured mostly images from N’Djamena, but also Khartoum, Addis Ababa and a bit of Lagos and Abuja. From the feedback we picked up, the audience were able to situate themselves within the reality portrayed by the images. They identified familiar places, but were also able to project their imagination beyond as a result of the “openness” of the images and their tendency to depict occurrences in the public spaces of African cities. The N’Djamena audience was able to identify with the familiarity of places; people and structures proffered by the images, while at the same time relished the unorthodox gaze suggested by the creators of the images.
Reality can be synthesized I am sitting in a moderately furnished apartment, in the living room precisely. There is a flower vase right before me, on top of my desk – with flowers, yes. Only that these flowers are synthetic and not the real thing. It got me reflecting: The extent to which reality could easily be synthesized in a bid to approach or reproach its inherent substance… For more than 20 days, I have been on the road, together with eight other participants; we are artists – photographers, writers, filmmakers and even one who simply calls himself a visual artist. The project is called Invisible Borders, and as the name seems to imply, it is all about rendering the Visible Borders invisible, flattening it, blurring it, but in actuality, the experiences gathered after three years and three editions of the trip, suggests that the name of the project could be seen at most as encompassing different layers and aspects, or at worst, a very vague term.
Where will I begin this one? It’s a few days after Christmas and the days are rushing towards the new year with lesser activities than before Christmas. I am in Lagos. Christmas for me has been sort of a laid-back one, more of reflections about life and its twists and curves. Naturally I was on the other side of things when it comes to all the high-sounding celebrations. But then an opportunity came, an idea struck. I could go to Accra for a few days rather than get stuck in the monotones of Christmas here. What is it like in Accra now? As a Trans-African being, a border-being so to speak, it was not at all an unwelcome thought, one that is likely to see the light of the day in action. Besides, Ghana has always been the much contested neighbor of Nigeria, and events constantly affirm that.
I have been in New York for two days. Just before arriving here, I got back from a seven weeks road trip from Nigeria to Gabon. I was still fresh from the journey, barely 24 hours in between my return and take off to New York. I am in this buzzing city now; everyday waking up to the liveliness of a city that never sleeps. Sometimes I wonder, who are these people? Everyone to his or her own, paths and streets are packed with people, using the same space, living the same moment, yet one could be millions of worlds apart from the other. Running to something, shopping for something, buying pleasure. Nothing is for free – even giving is not a given.
This morning, I woke up at some few minutes after 5.am. My head was pounding with a slight headache and for the umpteenth time, I slept in my clothes with my wallet and keys in my pocket. I woke up to the dawn of the morning in Libreville, and looked out the window. I was hit by a pleasant view accompanied by an equally pleasant feeling. That inner excitement that comes with being in a new place, the excitement of knowing who I was even though I didn’t know where I was. Sounds were a mishmash of speeding cars, and the crows of roosters, as if the city was in struggle with the countryside in attempt to determine which best represents it. But Libreville is a city of many facets. The rich are richer with the too-good-to-be- true cars and plush appearances, while the poor are very poor, minding their business mostly in the “quartier populaire” which is hardly the most popular part of the city.
Traveling has been a very important aspect of my existence. More so because it represents that phenomenon by which everything living is animated – Journey. To travel is to journey and in every journey there is a story. Stories take you on a journey from what or where you were to where and what you never imagined to be. There is a constant discovery of the limits and abilities of oneself. I say that life will be lifeless without the journey in and away from oneself. To journey is to be the story while telling the story at the same time.
In several terms, Africa has been bombarded with various nomenclatures in times past in efforts to define and sometimes cup its complexness. With vast stretches of lands, landscapes and intricate networks of people, making up one-sixth of the world’s population, that are constantly evolving, it is indeed understandable that it makes for concision to coin singular terms in order to abbreviate this ever dynamic continent and all that comes with it.
Sao Tomé. Until only a few days ago this Island has been somewhat of a miniscule dot on the map of my consciousness. I have heard of it, even managed to spot it in the map a few times, but I usually gloss over it with enough interest accorded to an obviously not interesting subject. Today, I am here. Invited by the biennale of Sao Tomé and Principle. A biennale initiated by the artist, João Carlos Silva and curated by Adeleide Ginga.