Invisible Borders: The Trans-African Project
Founded in Lagos, Nigeria, in 2009.
Based in Lagos.
Invisible Borders: The Trans-African Project was initiated in 2009 by peripatetic Nigerian artist Emeka Okereke. It is a collaborative platform that brings together photographers, writers, and filmmakers from different African countries and elsewhere to address the meaning of borders and to consider the complex material reality of Africa through an annual road trip. Beginning with the first trip in 2009, which was staged to coincide with Rencontres Africaines de la Photographie in Bamako, the collaborative has organized trips to Dakar, Senegal (2010), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (2011), and Libreville, Gabon (2013). In these trips, participants drawn from across Africa and elsewhere would assemble in Lagos, Nigeria, where the project is formally registered as an artists’ organization, and then proceed to the various destinations after traversing several borders along the way. Through this process, it builds upon and expands similar initiatives such as Overcoming Maps (2001, 2004, 2005, and 2007) by the Pan-African Circle of Artists based in Enugu, Nigeria, and Exit Tour, organized by the late Cameroonian artist Goddy Leye in 2006. These projects were inspired by several goals: to critically examine continental mobility in relation to the legacy of European colonialism that is reflected in national borders, to engender cultural exchange and networking among artists and cultural producers on the continent, and to reinvent the badly maligned image of Africa as a space perpetually haunted by pathologies.
A total of eighty-five artists have participated in Invisible Borders’ successive trips and their outcomes have been presented in the context of exhibitions, workshops, and conferences at venues across the globe, including Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland (2010); the New Museum, New York (2012); Biennale Bénin (2012); and the African Union Center, Addis Ababa (2012).
In 2014, Invisible Borders embarked on its most ambitious road trip to date, from Lagos to Sarajevo. This trip was an attempt to deepen its conceptual framework of trans-Africanism by considering Africa’s history and temporality beyond bounded place and time; but more importantly, to engage with the continent’s fraught relationship with Europe. This new premise which will drive future trips as presented at the Biennale di Venezia under the rubric of A Trans-African Worldspace, as an interconnected platform of ideas and interventions that include the visual archive (film, text, photographs) of past trips, an object installation, and a documentary film.