All posts tagged: photography

Seeing in the Eye: On Photography and the Gaze

“The danger of identifying with a stranger is the possibility of becoming a stranger. To lose one’s racialized rank is to lose one own valued and enshrined difference”. In my preoccupation with borders, movement and all the various forms of differences they presuppose, I have, more often than not, encountered the question: how can imagery (and by extension photography) play a useful role in the restitution of our world towards more conscious and correlational human relationships? As an attempt to reflect on this question, I would like to begin with the above-cited quote from Toni Morrison’s The Origin of Others. It would seem, at first glance, that it is a quote about reciprocity. Yes. There is that, yet it goes even further. It is a quote about affecting the gaze. Thus I would, for the purpose of my reflection, argue that everything begins with the gaze: affect the gaze and naturally, the effect reciprocates. In the language of the Igbo people of Nigeria (one that I speak as my mother’s tongue), the gaze is central …

“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 …

Exploring a Void – “The Middle Ground”

In my previous writing, A Border Philosophy, I discussed the nature of a border, as something porous but concurrently has the tendency to be a vacuum as a result of the various positionings of what it tends to separate. In taking that argument further, I propose to discuss this vacuum as a space that is no longer a space of nothingness but an In-between or an “Interstitial” space (Bhabha, 1994) – within which the negotiations of many intersecting factors give form to the nature and potency of a given border condition. Often times when we make references to a border, it is in relation to an outward physical quality that imposes one form of limitation or the other – be it in our everyday lives or in the more institutionalized context of borders between nations. A visual rendition of a border might lead us to conjure a thick mass of matter the size of one’s imagination obscuring further vision or the possibility of a more distant horizon. It could also come to us in form …

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.