By Pelu Awofeso (@PeluAwofeso)
The 5th edition of the Invisible Borders trans-continental road trip takes off from Lagos (Nigeria) in the second week of June and, 150+ days and 22 countries later, will terminate in Sarajevo (Bosnia Herzegovina). Established in 2009, the IB project started out as a cause aimed at testing the reality of the ECOWAS charter on seamless movements of goods and persons across West African borders. There have been three editions since then.
Part of its objectives also include:
(1) Tell Africa’s stories, by Africans, through
photography and inspiring artistic interventions.
+ Encourage exposure of upcoming African
photographers towards experiencing art and
photography as practiced in other parts of the
(2) Establish a platform of cultural network that encouragesand embraces trans-African artistic relationships within the continent.
(3) Contribute towards the socio-political discourse
shaping Africa of the 21st Century.
(4) Create a radical new documentary aesthetic, offered
to internat ional media, contemporary art wor ld and a
large publ i c , through exhibi tions, conferences, press
& web publ ications within the framework of a soonto-
come interactive book/web archive (autumn
Participants, who vary with every outing, are a mix of professional photographers, artists, art historians, and writer-bloggers; and though the members were initially wholly Nigerian, it has evolved over the years to include Africans from across the continent, from Sudan to South Africa. This year, participants are from Nigeria, Eritrea, South Africa, Kenya and Egypt and they are each bringing their respective personalities and personal projects to the collective dream.
“Besides creating personal works in their various mediums, the Invisible Borders participants will develop projects of collaboration with local associations, museums, art centers, public institutions and other artists,” a press statement by the team says. “During the road trip artists explore and participate in photographic events, festivals and exhibitions while engaging on a daily basis with the environment and the people encountered. The emphasis is primarily on the collective journey of the participating artists who, during their momentary stops in major cities, create works, which are reflections of those encounters and exchanges.”
Other engagements will include: “Exhibitions ( installations, projections, performances) which tend to offer the road trip experience to the viewer; exchange with the local audience through interactive art creation involving the participation of local artists and indigenes, in public spaces and chosen communities; talks, conferences and presentations around the concept of trans-cultural exchange; further collaborations with organizations, institutions and individuals in the humanities sector to encourage awareness of social issues such as climate change, gender issues, pollution, road safety and politics of migration.”
At a press conference organised in Lagos on Wednesday June 5, IB Artistic Director Emeka Okereke, who has featured in all four previous trips, says much as they make the whole project sound easy and rosy, he will be the first to acknowledge the difficulties– logistics, financial, administrative–that come with a campaign such as the IB road trip. He describes the road trip as a “suicide mission” of sorts. As a frequent traveller myself, I could relate with his playful description. For one, this year’s itinerary itself is as dazzling as it is intimidating. The road trip this time includes stops in the following countries: Benin, Togo, Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco, Spain, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Ivory Coast, Slovenia and Croatia.