Emmanuel in conversation with Kemi on her Project

Posted: November 16, 2011 at 2:54 am

Pokart waz ere, Jos (Kemi Akin-Nibosun)

Emmanuel Iduma: What is your project about?
Kemi Akin-Nibosun: My project is about imposing; I mean it’s about being in Invisible Borders and what Invisible Borders is about. Invisible Borders is about crossing several borders and forming relationships. My work relates to this because I am part of Invisible Borders, I am part of going into these places and imposing myself. For example, we are in Chad; the Chadian government didn’t invite me, I’m here imposing myself. In some parts of my work you’ll see “pokart waz ere”, that’s like leaving remnants of myself behind.
EI: This is very interesting. First of all, you talked about how we intend to form relationships, basically blurring these borders. I’m more interested in knowing not just about your project but what we are trying to do as a collective and why you think we need to form these relationships. Also, why do you think the independent structures that we already have shouldn’t exist anymore?
P KAN: For me, I would have to say, before coming to Chad I had my own presumptions, even of Cameroon which is just next door to Nigeria. Coming on this trip has allowed me to make my own judgments about these places. I think that’s the fundamental of this project. It’s for Africans to learn from themselves and explore themselves. For example when we were crossing the border from Cameroon to Chad and there was friction between the drivers and us, that’s all part of it – lack of understanding. It goes deeper than that, it’s like each country, society, and community have their own way of thinking. The Cameroonian driver understood the Nigerian female mentality and the Nigerian male mentality and played us against each other and we didn’t realize that until later. So that’s an example of learning from each other. In Tchad the mentality is different, the psychology is different. We are not only learning the culture, we are also learning how other people think, maybe it would teach us more about ourselves.
EIVery beautiful. I think it is important that we have clarity of mind. As artists and photographers, it’s clarity of mind that leads to clarity of vision. I kind of found it very problematic when you used the word ‘imposed’ for your project. I think it would be better if you elaborate what you mean by ‘impose’ because nobody asked you to impose yourself and nobody cares if “pokart waz ere” in that sense. So it’s important we understand the scope of what you mean by imposition.

"...I’ve left something behind." Pokart Waz ere, Abuja (Kemi Akin-Nibosun)

P KAN: Well, when I say I’m imposing myself, I don’t mean it in the sense that I would come, destroy and leave or come, re-arrange and leave. (Although I will be doing a small amount of that because you cannot impose without leaving a mark.) What I mean is that I am an entity, a complete body. As a complete body moving through these channels a mark must be left. Like it or not, my mark is left in this hotel, physically, emotionally, and spiritually I’ve left something behind.

EI: I think it’s clearer now. You used the word ‘remnants’ and it’s interesting that it sounds like an exchange. Until this moment Chad was never in our reality because we had never been here. I believe It is important for us to find ways to keep ourselves in Chad. Your project is actually doing that. You are using your photos to do that by saying “pokart waz ere” in the sense that a part of you is here. Do you think that this is an alternative way for you to see reality?

"...a mark must be left." Drive Through the Cameroun Desert, Cameroun (Kemi Akin-Nibosun)

P KAN: Well… partly, because our purpose on earth is to create. For me, it’s also an outlet. It is more like a channel to let things out.

EI: I feel like this is also a form of soulical healing for you. It’s no longer a question of “this is Africa or this is not Africa.” It’s more a thing of Africa being the canvas for you.
P KAN: You’ve just hit the nail on the head! We need to forget about this need to tell a story of Africa. Let Africa be the canvas! It’s one of two things, either you see Africa as a canvas and you paint yourself on it. Or like Emeka (Okereke) said to me, let the environment make you feel. So this time around it’s no longer Africa being the canvas but it being a catalyst bringing forth the emotions you never expected. Africa can be your canvas or your catalyst.

"Let Africa be the canvas!" Along Comes Ally, Maiduguri (Kemi Akin-Nibosun)

EI: Beautiful! I could just go on and on but due to time I would like to quickly ask about your medium and how you intend to achieve this. 

P KAN: I have chosen for the duration of this project to work with a fish eyed lens and a Canon 60D because the 60D isn’t full frame but combined with the fish eye it allows a wide angled look. Also the saturation from the combination of the fish eye and the 60D is what I’m after. When it comes to editing I am very comfortable with Photoshop. I know there is a lot of criticism on using Photoshop but that’s what I’m comfortable with. I don’t add to the saturation or color, I simply adjust the brightness and contrast accordingly. I emphasize the focus of the image with a box, the places I want to impose with a shape or colour.

Pokart waz ere , Abuja (Kemi Akin-Nibosun)

EI: Lastly, what type of images are you making for this project?
P KAN: Originally it was going to be images of myself strategically placed in rooms where we stay; and you remember the first ones I did in Akachukwu’s studio. They were successful in their own right but I felt I was confined to a limited space hindering me from exploring the environment. Now it’s not going to be me anymore in the pictures, but the boxes would be a form of imposing myself on the images and spaces.
For more on Kemi’s work, please visit her blog.
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