Surprise SurPrize!

Posted: November 11, 2009 at 7:36 pm
Uche Okpa-Iroha, a Nigerian photographer and one of the 10 photographers of the Invisible Borders 2009 has won the Seydou Keita Award at the Bamako Photography biennale, in addition to a recent award from the Fondation Blachire! Thumbs up! This is only the beginning!

It’s midweek and we’ve not stopped since we got here. Partying, meeting and mingling, as well as catching up on a massive backlog of work. No end of hustle and bustle. We are all still sleep-deprived but all the strain is gone. We have bonded over drinks, over lots of work, over breakfast, lunch, dinner and over midnight snacks. We have bonded in each others rooms, in taxis whose drivers knew the way to our destination little more than we did, in auditoriums, and sometimes in private with our own room mates.

The constant grind of schedule and agenda has kept us in motion, and today things work up to a crescendo as we all prepare for tomorrow’s projection. Nobody leaves their hotel room. We are up early, begin work at the breakfast table, and work through, some of us without even having a shower. The mood is elevated; we have been able to shake off the tension that had built up on the road. We are looking forward now, gearing up to rise to the challenge of gratifying the interest in our trip that has built up following our arrival in Bamako. We have a 4pm meet at the Musee National to carry out our final edit for the audio-visual presentation on our road trip. Lucy and Chriss remain behind at the hotel, facing the prospect of doing an all-nighter tonight as they are also editing video and sound respectively.

The meet falls through as different people are doing different things in different places, we’ll just have to do it later. Meanwhile all the people gathered at the museum have begun to pack up to attend the award ceremony, and we leave Nike writing the chronicles in the meeting room. I am able to wangle a seat sitting among the dignitaries and ministers, and I settle down to strain my grey matter through a ceremony that is held mostly in French. Much clapping and snapping and we finally come to the grand prize.

Don’t ask me why, but it seems we were completely unprepared for what came next. Not one of the ten Invisible Borders photographers had a camera on them. Thank heavens for Emeka’s iPhone or we would not have had a photo to call our own of Uche Okpa Iroha receiving the Grand Prix Seydou Keita. Our very own Uche! With the Under Bridge Life images he’d made at Emeka’s Paris-Lagos 2008 Project under Third Mainland Bridge at Oko-Baba. From Lagos with Love.

We are taking the prize home! The most visible of the invisible borders – namely the huge body of work of all the participants who exhibited alongside Uche – has been shattered.

Sorry guys, I have to go now, we’re going to paint Bamako red….!

by Unoma Giese.
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