Monday, 11 October 2010

Invisible Borders 2010 at Kunsthalle Bern (Museum of Bern) Switzerland

Exhibition Title : Idea of Africa Reinvented
Opening Date : Friday 22nd of October 2010
Closing Date:  Sunday 5th of December 2010
Venue :  Kunsthalle Bern ( Museum of Bern) Switzerland

Participating artists of Invisible Borders :

Amaize Ojeikere, Ray Daniels Okeugo, Uche James-Iroha, Lucy
Azubuike, Charles Okereke, Uche Okpa-Iroha, Chidimma Nnorom,
Emeka Okereke, Adenike Ojeikere, Chriss Aghana

 Ghanian Flag by Charles Okereke (Courtesy IB 2010)

In November 2009, a group of ten Nigerian photographers, film-makers and writers travelled from Lagos to Bamako in a rented bus. They were planning to present a documentation of this journey at the 8 Bamako Biennial for African photography. Their trip was in part motivated by a desire to experience the “invisible borders”: borders with no geographic basis, unnatural borders that were arbitrarily created at some drawing board, borders that cannot be seen from a plane. The reality of border crossings – humiliations, bureaucracy, corruption and crime – can only be experienced if one attempts to cross the continent by land. Mere months after this first project, the Invisible Borders-team undertook a second journey, this time from Lagos to Dakar. Their destination was the Dak’ Art 2010, the Dakar biennial for contemporary art. The exhibition at Kunsthalle Bern features photographic, filmic and textual works from this year’s project. Invisible Borders operates a blog at:  http://

This exhibition is the direct result of the participation in a workshop and research trip earlier this yearby Philippe Pirotte (Director of Kunsthalle Bern) to Lagos, Nigeria, organised by CCA Lagos and funded by Pro Helvetia.

Sunday, 10 October 2010


They journey has been gruesome, tiring and most times, charged.  After doing almost 1,700km on the return trip and entering Bamako, the 'dwarfs' were a bit relieved by their entering a familiar terrain. The dwarfs contemplated whether they should continue the journey all the way to Ouagadougou or make a stop over at Bobo Dioulasso (both in Burkina Faso). The attempt to make a decision on where to retire for the day prompted another session of much frayed nerves.

The presence of a very caring 'dwarf' (Adama) resident in Bamako helped soothe the tension as Snow White waited patiently in front of the Bamako Tennis Club.  Soon, the dwarfs lost all sense of coordination and direction due to fatigue, and incessant arguments frequently ensued. The burning desire to see home was paramount so it somehow kept hope alive!!

The Bamako 'dwarf' knew he had to talk some sense to the bunch headed to Lagos and then led them out of town in the direction of Bobo Doulasso. Still without a consensus of where they'd end up for they day, they dwarfs drove off for the unknown destination led by fate and faith, knowing that some how, Lagos beckoned!

A silent chill enveloped Snow White as the dwarfs contemplated their fate.  The pilot, who had, until now been doing a fairly good job had now become marooned to the hilt by the excruciating distance he had covered coupled with a  malaria attack, but remained adamant not to let go of his steering. At some point, some dwarfs planned a 'mutiny' against him.  But he hung on. He must set a secret record for himself, some of the dwarfs deduced. This was his first time driving that distance through the West Coast. At least he'd have something to brag about back home.

With some lapses in navigation, Snow White ended up at the Sikasso border post between Mali and Cote d' Ivoire ( the original plan was to reach the  Mali/ Burkina Faso border) and the dwarfs pondered their next move.  Fortunately, this time around, the Malian Border Police had some good advice for them…” Woe is on you if darkness meets you here. You must leave here as soon as possible; any other minute spent here will cost you the services of a military escort to Koury, the next safest border”.  Time was running out and so was our money; the plan to reach Bobo became a mirage. To the dwarfs' understanding, the border between Mali and Cote d'Ivoire was volatile and rebels prowl the whole area. It wasn't the place to be; life is precious!

The dwarfs sped off to Koury, danger lurking and the fear of rebels became the beginning of wisdom for the dwarfs.  Snow White pulled up at the Koury border post in record time and everyone had their documents processed.  Time to move on, but the dwarfs Achilles heels and bone of contention set in again - arguments and more arguments!  One dwarf enthused, “we go to Bobo tonight”; others: “no we can't”; some others: “Bobo is just two hours away from the border, let's go there!”  Arguing now was a peculiar for them. It  raged on! 

As the argument increased, three dwarfs went in search of mats.  They had to book for 'mat spaces' (to lay their heads for the night) at the border.  The female dwarfs went in search of small comforts- like taking a bath, even if it meant their paying for it! Surprisingly, indeed miraculously, they found comfort and more comfort. Another female a resident at the border post, struck a friendship with them, offered all three of them bath, dinner, cold water, bed and breakfast! The male dwarfs had to fend for their food and sleep in the outdoors!

Gentlemen, welcome to the domain of donkeys.  As the female dwarfs settled in  near by apartment, the male folks - not as fortunate and privileged - got 'mat spaces' in the donkey's domain.  The night wore on and the hours stretched.  The male dwarfs tried to sleep and knock off fatigue, but it was impossible. Some couldn't find 'mat space' and had to join the pilot in Snow White's belly. The weather had another idea and dusty wind encroached for several minutes. The mats flews in different directions and the donkeys began to 'sing' lullabies. They were on heat!  It began to drizzle and the donkeys brayed some more.  It was a long tortuous night as the donkeys sang harsh lullabies to the dwarfs.  But animals don't sing lullabies-apart for once, when it was recorded to have spoken in Bible.

No other evidence was needed; this was obviously an invisible border the dwarfs didn't foresee.  A border that will hinder sleep.  This tongue was different, the language was not comprehensible. What was it that the donkey sang? A love song to a new company? Was it a protest for a sudden intrusion? Whatever it was, it was a night the dwarfs could never forget because it took 'donkey years' to end.  A night of a thousand lessons.  A night the dwarfs were humbled, A NIGHT IN THE DONKEY's 'DEN'.