Enhanced by technology, we are travelling to other parts of our world. This came as a revelation. The revelation came when we attempted using Jide’s tablet, en route Calabar from Aba, to find our way – Google Map promised a detailed description of our route, the turns and moves. To depend on this technology we needed to be connected to the internet, and needed to trust its accuracy; we couldn’t afford any of that. And then, once we settled into a hotel, in which there are three persons to a room, our first inkling – Emeka and I, for instance – was to seek private spaces in the shared room for our work. Our work is enhanced by MacBooks and Hard Drives, audio recorders, iPads, Galaxy Tabs, microphones. Of course, cameras. I will not imagine how incapable we might become without these tools.
I have taken the liberty, in the first sentence of this recount, to adapt Pascal Mercier’s words (“unhampered by himself, he could travel to the other end of the world”) because I am fascinated by that word – unhampered. There’s the evidence of that fact in our work. (I have to necessarily apologize that in my head there is no chronology of the journey; everything leaps upon each other, sort of). We are unhampered, for instance, in the many stops we make, while driving from Aba to Calabar to capture images. There was Emeka asking Christian to pose in an uncompleted building for a long-distance shot. There was an abandoned (burnt?) filling station which had a one of its rooms labelled ‘showroom’, having used clothes (what seemed to me like several boxer shorts) hanging on a burglary proof. We are unhampered. And enhanced. The many stops signify what Rayo emphasized, that this journey is the destination.
Which is why tiny, almost unrecognizable facts strike me. I call this ‘a bridge lifestyle’ – the fact that Ikot Expene, a gateway into Akwa Ibom State, is literarily on the same road with Aba, Abia State’s commercial capital. How does this fit in? What possible interaction could the residents of both towns have? Could it be that there are merely language differences, that nuances are similar, and shared? I will like to think that language is a border that shifts, easily. Mario, our colleague from Mozambique, is the protagonist of many jokes. His accent, his outlook, his insistence that the volume of the reggae music playing from the Van’s MP3 player be increased, indicates that if we chose, we could always highlight his differentness. But in many ways, Mario is Nigerian, Rwandan, South African. I write this not to score that infamous cheap point – ‘we are all one.’ I write this to emphasize that the border is always shifting in ways we couldn’t have imagined – like Mario having 9ice’s ‘Gongo Aso’ in his playlist, singing to words he doesn’t and may never comprehend.
Christian noted, in his characteristic way (an unforced profundity) that ladies in Aba seem more beautiful than the ladies he had seen in Lagos. I think it was Ray who corroborated this, agreeing to Christian’s theory that Lagos, being a stressful place, could be diminishing the beauty of the ladies. Not that he used diminishing. This observation is fresh, even intriguing to me. Again it highlights how our van – should we name it ‘Snow White’ – has always been able to accommodate varying forms of thinking. One day, Emeka joked, we would have to fumigate the van because so many ‘big’ words are being flung here and there. Unfortunately, he says I am one of the culprits who speak too much big grammar, Christian and me.
When we drove into Calabar, it was raining. A beautiful city by its own right, clean. Even in the rain I felt Calabar’s cleanness. Our guide, a friend of Emeka’s friend, mentioned that there another part of Calabar that was worth seeing, the Old Calabar. A Museum is there; fishermen, farmers, commoners generally. When he used that word, ‘commoner’, I flinched. I have always had difficulty when people seemed comfortable with inequality, in any form – but this is my own headache. I am quite expectant about tomorrow, when we’d head to that part of town, and time. I am going to concern myself with seeking the convergence of the past and the present in what is called ‘history.’ How the old intersects with the new, and vice versa (another of my headaches).
A tipsy man came to me in the hotel compound and asked who we were. Musicians? I said artists of various kinds. What are we doing? Travelling and making work. Travelling to where? Ultimately Congo. Oh, good, you must have big sponsors. I laughed. There’s no way you would get to Congo without crossing a river. I told him it was fine – we were on the journey anyway.
So, the borders have shifted because our journey doesn’t care about their existence. That tipsy man seemed to insist that our goal would be trumped if we got to a point when we had to use a ferry. I had to counter-insist that the journey was what mattered, not simply the destination, not simply the means. And while we travel, we’d be unhampered by ourselves, enhanced by technology.