All posts tagged: Africa

Is Amoeba Shapeless, or is Shapelessness a Shape?

I want to begin this reflection by taking some memory-steps back to my high school days when I was a science student. In our biology class, we were introduced to Amoeba, the shapeless, single-cell organism. As with most students of my age, the only character of this organism I really retained was its shapelessness. How can something be shapeless? I often wondered. The whole premise of materiality, or physicality is form. If something can be seen as much as touched, then it is bound to have a shape. Even as I write, I recall how “shapeless amoeba” became a derogatory expression often employed, as a joke or mean insult, to describe someone’s head whose contours are abnormally disproportionate. But I never got over this contradiction of something being shapeless. Many years after, and with the benefit of hindsight, I would come to understand that my life, almost in its entirety, plays out within the perimeters of this paradox. I will explain. Not too long ago, I was asked to give an artist talk on the …

Knowledge, Time and Futures of Super(s)heroes.

Is it possible to think from that silence (the silence created by coloniality of knowledge), to undo the colonial differences that “time” contributed to make and contributes to maintain?1 For well over two weeks, the cyberspace has been in a state of frenzy following the latest release of Marvel comics’ blockbuster superhero movie: Black Panther. What is it that makes this film different from the rest of the Marvel comics series? Well, let’s start with the most obvious: it is probably the first time in contemporary history that a movie of its calibre will feature almost an all-Black cast.2If you’ve seen any of the other superhero instalments, you can already imagine how huge a deal this is. I will not dwell on, or continue the rave about, how the dark days of Black are finally over. The internet it sufficiently littered with much of that. Please, be my guest. I am particularly interested in a broader question: how a movie that takes Blackness – and by extension Africanness – as a central theme got tangled …

“Water No Get Enemy”: A Thing or Two About Running.

I am in a different mood today. So I am going to write about running. But first, let me say that this post is not about grandiose achievements. It is about little steps. I have been running for months now. Although I cannot yet call myself a serious runner, I have learnt a thing or two about my body and mind since I took up running on a more regular basis. I am in Berlin. As I write, it is as cold as February can be. Despite the fact that there has been some talk about how this is one of the mildest winters ever, the temperature is at a range of minus two to one degree. In the week I arrived from Lagos – that was some two weeks ago – the temperature went up as high as 11 degrees. I thought then it was too cold to run. This week, I have been terrified by the thought running. This cold messes with my head big time. But yesterday, I summoned the courage and …

San Francisco: Back and Forth Across Place and Time

It’s been about ten days since I flew across the ocean and backward in time from Paris to San Francisco. It was a beautiful stress-free journey, one that put my anxieties for long-distance flights at ease. For some reason, everyone was particularly nice towards me. From the Airport in Paris through London Heathrow and the flight attendants of the long-haul flights all the way to the immigration officers at the San Francisco Airport (somewhat of a surprise considering the extent to which I am often harassed while traveling through airports). By the time I got to my hotel, I was exhausted. My eyes were heavy, not from sleep, I think, but from a sense of having survived the vortex of a time warp. By now, my internal clock was nine hours ahead. Everyone around me was working in slow motion. Or perhaps I was walking backward. I have been invited to San Francisco as a guest lecturer in the MFA Photography program at the Hartford University. I was to join the faculty in a weeklong …

Africa: A new game of “Scrabble”

We are in Amsterdam. We have been invited in the context of the 5th edition of the Unseen Photo Fair/Festival which takes places every year. We are African artists, curators and cultural operators. I have been scheduled alongside these proactive African cultural CEOs and Artistic Directors to speak in a panel. The panel in question is called ‘Platforms in Africa’. A couple of days ago, I was interviewed by a writer from Volkskrant, a very popular newspaper in The Netherlands with a readership of about 270,000. The content of this interview revolved around the most sensational perception: the sudden attention and renewed fixation on ‘Africa’ So here we are to discuss our various initiatives. We are set to go. After rounds of gruellingly long introductions by the moderator which made the whole affair seem like a live performative reading of the “About” page of websites and artists bios, we run out of time. I was disappointed to say the least. I have been invited one time too many to this kind of panel discussions, that …

A Photographer’s Note (I)

These notes are jottings inspired by the reading (and being in the sense) of John Berger’s Understanding a Photograph. Sometimes I paraphrase or quote the said author, and other times I form thoughts of my own that elaborate as much as extend certain remarkable impulses: 1. Something propels me to photograph. It is there or it isn’t. What is this? That’s the big question. I do not know. Some say it is intuition. But has intuition not been exhausted in definition? So much that by now I should know for certain? Perhaps it’s a thing. The only thing that I am. 2. Oftentimes I ask myself why I photograph. Times like this I  resort to looking at images in general – mostly of others, but also of mine. I look through images shared on social media (since the aim of sharing here is to engage socially) by many professional/amateur photographers. I realise that there is a tendency to beautify. To take what we already know and present them in the form of consumerist beauty. One that …

What to Make of Differences in the African Experience (1)

In Berlin, I had the pleasure of catching up with some longtime friends and colleagues. Luckily it was in a low key Nigerian restaurant that allowed for conversations in off-pitch tones and wild laughter. On the table was a Nigerian and a Cameroonian who had been living and working in Berlin for 20 years or thereabout; two Ghanaians who just flew in for a performance—one of them of Romanian origin; a Nigerian who arrived Berlin from Libreville; and myself, a Nigerian who just got in from Amsterdam. There you have it: a heterogeneous mix of Africans that immediately trumps a simplistic notion of Pan-Africanism. It was the perfect setting for an impromptu debate about what Africa, or blackness should and should not be. It was a rich conversation, cutting across many historical pointers but geared towards one question: How do we change the status quo and inspire progress that breaks away from the pitfalls of neocolonialism? A departure point for me was to scale back to the time of Kwame Nkrumah, the symbolical figure of Ghana’s independence and a key pioneer of the concept …

Once Upon a Time in Cold Berlin – Part 2

Before I delve into the reason that prompted a return to this subject, it is imperative that I continue from where I left off in Once upon a Time in Cold Berlin – Part 1. As we would normally do at the debuting episode of a new season, let’s go back memory lane! 1. I traveled out of Nigeria for the first time in 2003, and since then I have not stopped. I am one of many Nigerians who are usually harassed and humiliated even before there was a reason for it – and usually for no reason other than my “green passport”… 2. In February 2010, one of my trips within Europe was brutally cut short and I was forced out of the continent. What did I do? I exceeded my visa for a period of eight days! I was stopped at the Schonefeld airport in Berlin by the Polizei (German federal Police), as I arrived from Paris. What followed next was a journey through the nightmares of so many immigrants and deportees of …

Movement is the Word

Sometime ago, I came across Mo Ibrahim’s keynote address at the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Tshwane, South Africa. I listened as he pronounced that (and I paraphrase) ‘there will be no progress on the African continent until there is free movement of cultures, capital and people across borders.’ From his words, we can deduce that in many different sectors, not just in the arts, the freedom – or the lack of it – associated with movement plays a major role in the discourse on how to forge ahead in a continent burdened by the downsides of abundance and possibilities. This much is clear. But what seems rather foggy in this mad rush for movement and exploration of possibilities, is the question of direction. Where are we heading? Are we transcending limitations or are we merely circulating within them? These questions have come to form the driving force behind the endeavours of artists and thinkers who champion ‘movement.’ Perhaps the aim is not to arrive at a definite answer. Perhaps it suffices that the questions …

From Accra With Love

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 …