Last Tuesday, Invisible Borders officially started the “Borders Within: Trans-Nigerian”  journey, a road trip across Nigeria to map the diversity of a country almagated over hundred years ago. On this trip, they hope to underscore the borders that are both inscribed and elusive within the country from down south to southwestern Nigeria to the east and northern regions.

The participants of Borders Within 2016 are : image

Emeka Okereke, Filmmaker/Photograher, Founder and Artistic Director, Invisible Borders

Zaynab  Odunsi, Photographer

Emma Iduma, Writer

Yinka Elujoba, Writer

Eloghosa Osunde , Writer

Yagazie Emezi, Photograher

Uche Okonkwo, Writer

Ellen Kondowe, Head of Communications Invisible Borders

Innocent Ekejiuba, Project Manager Invisble Borders

imageThey will travel across 14 states, making about 15 stops in cities scattered across all the regions of the country. Amongs the participants are photographers, filmmakers and writers who will produce images and text that reflect impressionistic, yet critical readings 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? What is foremost is the encounters on this trip. The people they will meet, converse, dine, play and live with. Nigerians from all walks of life. The physicality of the geographical enclave is equally of importance – a space, an environment is always a reflection of the people therein.

As a media partner of this project, we will share some of these encounters and experiences through special features on our website and through a back to back takeover on our Instagram account @tsalovesart by selected participants. The hashtags to look out for are #InvisibleBordersOnTSA and #BordersWithinNigeria. Follow the entire trip on our Twitter @tsalovesart for retweets from Invisible Borders account. Below we have our first feature by Yinka Elujoba.

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You Cannot Take Photographs Here

I remember meeting the chief of Gele Gele. He was dark and had an oblong head and his anger at our sudden visit sat upon him like an extra layer of skin. He had simply said:
“You cannot take photographs here.”

1.
In a book I read a long time ago, the author spoke of history as if it were a clothe woven from many fabrics. I think now of this book. The title eludes me, but I remember that there were oil stains on it, that it had had seven previous owners and that their seven different names were written on its first page in ink of different colors, that its 234th page was torn, and that as a result I had ended my reading there.

2.
I pick up history again like an unfinished cloth.

3.
On the Benin-Abraka road, the eldest of three men tells a story of how his father, Ota Okuna, founded the little Ijaw community at the Ikpe Waterside. I try to pay attention. I notice instead his gestures, the interjections of the other men, their nods and laughter. I notice how they punctuate the man’s story with theirs when his memory fails. I also notice that the story belongs to them all—any of the three men could have easily being the one telling the story.

4.
I put on this clothe but only for a moment—history is not a private attire. See, there is no refuge without a collective truth.

5.
I think a lot about Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi—the fated king standing here, ready for exile, lifting his gaze one last time, beholding the water that had brought the white men to his doorsteps in the first place. But when I stand there today, on that edge of the water in Gele Gele, I think of nothing.

I remember meeting the chief of Gele Gele. He was dark and had an oblong head and his anger at our sudden visit sat upon him like an extra layer of skin. He had simply said:
“You cannot take photographs here.”

Later when we interview one of the indigenes, we find that there has been a court case between them and the people of Benin for 30 years—a tussle for the possession of the land. This is when we understand why the chief had been mad. He had refused to believe that we were not spies from Benin. I imagine that he was tired of Gele Gele being merely a conduit of history—a clothe worn only out of necessity and hurriedly discarded. But history is only a culmination of contexts; the past is always straddling the present.