All posts tagged: Borders

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 …

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 …

To Be or To Have – That is the Question

It was Christmas of twenty fourteen. My first Christmas in Amsterdam. I was not ready for the laidback-ness of the city. Even the tourists seemed to be taking it easy as the streets were scanty. I spent a better part of the day with with my family and later with a good friend. I couldn’t help but pause at the sudden realization of what a rare blessing this has been. Don’t get me wrong, I am not the kind who thinks of Christmas as the special day to give and receive good vibes, positivity and all the other names we call it – no, everyday is special in that sense. But there is an aura that comes with Christmas, we know this from childhood. Take away all the gluttonous tendencies and consumerists sentiments, one is left with that childlike impulse of just being. Everything strikes an unforgettable chord inwardly. I guess this was how after so many years I still retained the smell of Christmas air as I knew it from back then. Our lives …

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 …

A Border Philosophy

I was in conversation with a friend, breaking down thoughts around the question of borders. My point of deperture was that borders are not a stand-alone entity. It does not exist in a void, though they are of themselves a void – an illusion of tangibility. they are vacuum made tangible by the pressure that ensues from the negotiation of our differences. In one of Ursala Biemann’s film “performing the border“, the protagonist was heard saying that there will be no border if there are no “crossings”. The very notion of crossing carries within it the constituent character of a border. We can equally call this “the necessity of traversal” inherent in that which is the heartbeat of nature: movement.

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 …

Discussing Aesthetics in The Trans-African Project

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.

Lagos to Accra on ABC Transport

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.

Diary of a Border-Bieng – Libreville Gabon

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.