The Invisible Borders Trans-Nigeria Road Trip 2016 (tagged ‘Borders Within’) kicked off on May 12, 2016 with a five-day retreat at the serene Chaka Beach Resort at Eleko, Lagos. This year, a total of nine participants will be taking part in the road trip – seven artists and two administrators: Emeka Okereke, photographer/film-maker, and founder of Invisible Borders; Emmanuel Iduma, writer and four-time participant in Invisible Borders road trips; Zainab Odunsi, photographer; Yinka Olújọba, writer; Yagazie Emezi, photographer; Eloghosa Osunde, writer/photographer; Uche Okonkwo, writer; Innocent Ekejiuba, project manager for the trip, and Ellen Kondowe, head of communications for Invisible Borders.
After settling in at the resort, the participants gathered that same afternoon to relax by the beach and get to know each other. The artists also talked about the questions and interests they have with regard to the road trip, and discussed their expectations and the work that they intend to do while on the journey.
The preoccupations of each artist are as diverse as the individuals themselves: Yagazie is interested in women and their relationship with their bodies, particularly the blemishes and scars they might carry; Yinka’s work will explore ‘immapancy’ (geographical illiteracy) among Nigerians, as well as the effects of violence on their everyday lives. Uche will be considering language in relation to identity, as well as the validity of Nigeria’s claim to ‘unity in diversity’; Emeka will be producing a documentary on the road trip, and will be exploring personal archives from the Nigerian Civil War. Zainab’s work will focus on the idea of masculinity in Nigeria; Eloghosa will be considering the concept of home, from the angle of ‘who’ people are from, as opposed to ‘where’; Emmanuel will be exploring the idea of the intimate stranger, and how lasting, meaningful relationships can be formed from fleeting contact.
On day two, Friday, May 13, the participants started out watching an Al Jazeera documentary that followed the 2012 Invisible Borders road trip, from Lagos to Libreville. The documentary presented a visual portrayal of the early days of the collective and highlighted the ways in which it has evolved. Day two also marked the start of portfolio presentations, with Yagazie and Yinka presenting respectively. The idea behind the portfolio presentations was to consider the participant’s past work and how it relates, however loosely, with the work they intend to carry on during the trip. The participants also got to meet and hear from staff of Diamond Bank, one of the sponsors of the trip. Nkem Nwaturuocha spoke on behalf of the company, expressing Diamond Bank’s passion for innovation and exploring new frontiers, particularly within Nigeria.
Portfolio presentations continued on day three, with Zainab and Uche presenting their work. Day four witnessed the last of the portfolio presentations, with Emmanuel, Eloghosa and Emeka talking about their work. The group also watched the film Lagos to Addis Ababa 2011, which documented Invisible Borders’ 2011 road trip. But it wasn’t all work and no play during the retreat. The artists were able to take the occasional break from their work and discussions to bond while enjoying the facilities at the resort.
On Monday, May 16, the Invisible Borders Press Conference held at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Yaba. All participants of the road trip were in attendance, with each artist speaking about their work prior to the trip, and the new work they intended to produce during the journey. Emeka Okereke also took the time to thank the sponsors – Diamond Bank, Peugeot Nigeria and Nikon – and media partners for this year’s trip.