For 46 days in 2016, Invisible Borders travelled across 14 states in Nigeria. The aim was simple: to map the diversity across regions, states and ethnic formations in post-colonial Nigeria through photographs, video documentaries and travelogues. The group of artists and writers involved in the itinerary, through images and writing, interrogated both the elusive and apparent borders within Nigeria years after the amalgamation of its Northern and Southern Protectorates.
With more than 200 distinct tribes, Nigeria is an entity with multiple histories haunted by British artificial constructs. But now, in a period of intense economic recession, political instability, violence, corruption and an unfettered health crisis, is there a distance between what is shared and what is privately owned?
This is why Invisible Borders this year, 2017, will again embark on another remarkable journey starting from October 8 to November 16, 2017. Taking another route across the country, there will be an attempt to complete the important work begun in the previous year with the aim of drawing a map that is at once historical and contemporary while elucidating the ambiguities of what it means to be Nigerian.
Photographers, filmmakers and writers invited through an open application call will participate in the six-week road trip to produce images and writings that reflect impressionistic, yet critical interrogations of contemporary Nigeria. The central questions would be: who am I in relation to the artificial map? How am I product of what I have been inevitably named? How do I interact across the several visible and invisible borders I confront as a Nigerian?
The participants include three writers Kechi Nomu, a finalist for the Brunel International African Poetry Prize 2017; Yinka Elujoba, a poet and essayist and; Amara Nicole Okolo, a lawyer and author of Black Sparkle Romance (Ankara Press 2014) and Son of Man (Parresia Publishers 2016). References to Amara’s work have appeared on Africa in Words, Okay Africa, Chimurenga the Chronic, Reuters (Africa), Brittle Paper, CNN, Aljazeera, Radio France International and The Guardian (UK). The photographers and filmmaker include James Robert Bekenawei, a documentary photographer; Nengi Nelson, a photographer and budding filmmaker whose work explore the human body forms, their emotions and expressions in relation to communication and; Kenechukwu Nwatue, a photographer and second generation filmmaker born and raised in Nigeria.
The creatives will be tasked with developing one major body of work as a follow-up to the trip. The writers will be required to produce long travel essays (of up to 7,000 words), while the photographers will be required to produce at least an encompassing body of work from the trip.
In addition, Invisible Borders will present several short, personal narratives by residents of the towns and cities en-route, which some will be featured here on Fortunate Traveller, with the aim of creating a crowd-sourced narrative of contemporary Nigeria. The narratives, combined, will be made into a lengthy documentary film. Loose and non-linear, the film will underscore the improbability of reducing Nigeria to a single voice or way of telling.
This project follows in the tradition of the artistic road trip intervention established by Invisible Borders in the course of five editions. This implies that the artists and writers will travel together in a same vehicle, all the while living, working and interacting with each other. The route will be fluid, allowing for detours, but equally encompassing. Beginning in and returning to Lagos, the artists will move circularly through several Nigerian cities and towns whose history shaped and continue to shape a contemporary Nigerian identity.
This year, the project is funded by the ‘Von-Brochowski-Süd-Nord-Stiftung’. Also, supporting the project are Epidalert, Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos (CCA, Lagos) and Canon. Canon’s CEO said of their supporting the project: ‘Our partnership with the ‘’Borders Within II’’ project is an affirmation of our vision and commitment to developing, nurturing and supporting talent in Nigeria and throughout Africa.’ Fortunate Traveller is also proudly a media partner of the project.
For more information or to follow the journey visit: www.borders-within.com and keep a tab on our journal for some of the travel narratives of the participants. And if you would like to help in any way especially with information on the cities in our itinerary write to: [email protected] or [email protected].