Saturday 20 August 2011

Invisible Borders

Invisible Borders... Unfolding African photography adventure
By Tajudeen Sowole  
Friday, 12 August 2011 00:00
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Members of Invisible Borders in Accra, Ghana (2010)
Two years after nine Nigerian photographers set out on a cross-border journey to five countries in West Africa, under the group, Invisible Borders, the impact of the group on the prospect of photography in the continent may become reference point in photo art and tourism.
IN big cities such as Lagos, Nigeria and Bamako, Mali as well as others in Republic of Benin, Ghana, Togo and Burkina Faso, the lenses of these photographers captured the innocence, perhaps, virginity of wild life and beauty, oddity of these destinations.
This much, members Emeka Okereke, Amaize Ojeikere Uche Okpa-Iroha, Lucy Azubuike, Ray-Daniels Okeugo, Chidinma Nnorom, Charles Okereke, Chriss Nwobu and Numero Unoma, sub-consciously, keep imploring in marketing the tourism potentials of Africa to the rest of the world. For example, workshops on the two editions of the trans-borders photography adventure were organized in Bern Museum Switzerland last year and another at Berlin last April.
Visual arts as stimulants for culture and tourism has been epitomised in two of Africa’s most consistent gatherings such as Dak’Art, in Senegal and Bamako Photography Biennale, Mali. Among the African cities toured by Invisible Borders, these two international gatherings have been the most vibrant within this context, founder of the group, Okereke stated. This, he noted, could be attributed to the characters of these big biennales.
Further exploring the link between the creative sector and tourism, the group, in preparation for the next tour stated that the third edition tagged Road Trip Photographic Project 2011 will involve 13 artists, ten from Nigeria and the other three from Ghana, Sudan and Ethiopia, covering about 12 000 km from Lagos to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, later in the year.
Joining the photographers in this edition are
two writers: Nike Adesuyi Ojeikere and Nana Oforiatta-Ayim, “who will be writing for the blog as well as on a much broader context.”
Promoting photography as an art form, indeed, has been very challenging, even in Nigeria, despite the fact that photo art is almost as old as traditional Fine Arts in the country – if art history include the works of nineteenth century Nigerian photographer such as Dagogo Green and others of his generation not properly documented.
This year, three photo artists from Ghana, Sudan, and Ethiopia will join the group on the road trip as two of them will come to Lagos “while the Sudanese will join us in Sudan.”
For a project of this magnitude, would it not be a better idea strengthening the focus with a theme on every edition? “We do not choose a specific theme, however we choose several areas of possible exploration,” Okereke explained. The 2011 edition, he stressed, will be a focus on creating works which reveal the richness of daily living of the people and interactions with the environment.”
However, in the past tour, participants, worked on individual themes, some of which highlighted the creative link to tourism. Among such works was Amaize Ojeikere’s Sky and the Earth Beneath Series, shots in Lome and Accra. A dried water region in Lome as captured by Ojeikere may be a concern to environmentalists, but the photograph turns this natural devastation into a sort of creative composite as the painterly cloud fuses with the earth in the horizon. Also in Accra, he adds human factor, silhouetting a bridge filled with pedestrian traffic against the bluish sky.

A capture from west Coast

Rustiness as identity of most African cities did not escape the lens of Okpa-Iroha in such works as the Finding Rest Series. These works, shot in places like Cotonou, Benin Republic; Tambacounda, Senegal; Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Fasso; Bamako, Mali, shows the ever-increasing level of poverty in the continent.
Enriching the continental spread of participants for the 2011 edition are Ghanaian historian and writer, Nana Oforiatta Ayim; Ethiopian photographer and curator, Aida Muluneh; Sudanese documentary photographer, Ala Kheir.
Beyond using the subjects for creative medium, the photographers are showing concern on the continent’s plight, perhaps applying their arts to draw attention to several issues confronting Africa. These include women’s right, the role of China and other economic world powers in the shaping of the African economy and preservation of wildlife. Also, conflicts in such areas as Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria; Darfur, in Sudan; Fashoda, in East Africa, Okere stated will form part of the Invisible Borders 2011.
Okereke noted that photography as an art form is a medium, which has the tendency to cut across platforms. “It is a strong medium because of its closeness to everyday existence of the people while having the capability of gradually appealing to the creative senses of the individual.” He argued that documentary photography, for example, narrates a true story but at the same time can easily propel viewer into fruitful imagination or profound empathy depending on the artistic content.
For the 2011, the approach, Okereke stated will be about creating works, which reveal the richness of the daily living of the people and the interactions with their environment.
Although it started as an experiment, the first and second editions, he noted, were successful as “a learning process.” The aims of Invisible Borders, however, “has not been achieved so far; we are just scratching the surface.”
Founded in Nigeria, the vision of the initiative was to become a symbol of networking and trans-border associations within the arts in Africa. “We want to tell Africa’s stories, by Africans, through photography and inspiring artistic interventions; to encourage upcoming African photographers; establish a platform that encourages and embraces trans-African artistic relationships within the continent.”

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