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31 May 2011

'The Idea of Africa (re-invented)' at Centre de la photographie Genève

J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, Lagos skyline overlooking the New Marina, 1982

'The Idea of Africa (re-invented)'
Centre de la photographie Genève


May 20th until july 31st 2011 Tue - Sun 11h - 18h


+41 22 329 2835
+41 22 320 9904

Centre de la photographie Genève
28, rue des Bains
1205 Genève

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The Idea of Africa is the title of a book by the Congolese philosopher Valentin Yves Mudimbe, published in 1994, which shows how the way we conceive of Africa, can still be traced back to the ideology of the Western colonial powers. The exhibition-project, build in three parts at Kunsthalle Bern, is initially prompted by the need to critically revisit this 'idea' after the celebration of the 50th year of independence for 17 African countries. Western literature has long portrayed Africa as the antithesis of Europe, or as 'a paradigm of difference.' For centuries, Europeans have viewed Africa as the screen on which the wildest desires and fantasies were projected and inscribed. In The Idea of Africa, Mudimbe explores the origins and development of this negative conception of Africa. The exhibition-project at Centre de la photographie Genève focuses exactly on those artistic and intellectual endeavours that trace another history, in which the 'idea' of Africa is not already a 'given' framed by Western assumptions. It unites two artistic undertakings from Nigeria, which seek to capture and elucidate architectural, political and geographical structures by means of photography. The two different ventures share a documentary approach: J. D. 'Okhai Ojeikere, over the course of several decades, produced a photographic study on the urban development of the city of Lagos; the artist collective Invisible Borders sought a confrontation with the political borders on the African continent in the context of a kind of self-experiment. Consequently, this exhibition represents an inquiry into the approaches and ideas found in very specific examples of contempora ry photography from Africa and about Africa, in which the perspective of the author and the viewer, as well as the temporality of the recorded realities function as difficult variables.

J. D. 'Okhai Ojeikere - LAGOS

Born in1930 in Ovbiomu-Emai, and now living and working in Lagos, is a key witness in the processes of decolonisation and transition that Africa and more specifically Nigeria went through. Next to his work that explores the aesthetic form of hairstyles, which has been accorded international acclaim, the artist pursued other significant series of images, over a 60-year period, that have never been shown publicly. As Ojeikere celebrated his 80th year recently, and Nigeria its 50th year of independence, CPG is proud to show a fragment of his work documenting Lagos' urban modernity, its harbour, its flyover highways and its most significant buildings. The beauty of the series resides in the fact that the photographs document a modernist project in Africa, inspired by ideas of pan-Africanism, the struggle for decolonization and the architectural sediments of the dialectics of this struggle have come to symbolize the relationship among Africa, the West and the world. Most of the photographs taken in the sixties and the seventies of the twentieth century during a determinant period in its shaping between Western intervention or patronage and national cultural resurgence of a newly independent country. That is the inspiration behind a wonderful series of pictures that depict Lagos as a very beautiful city, in opposition to some actual assumptions.

(With Amaize Ojeikere, Ray Daniels Okeugo, Uche James-Iroha, Lucy Azubuike, Charles Okereke, Uche Okpa-Iroha, Chidinma Nnorom, Emeka Okereke, Adenike Ojeikere, Unoma Geise and Chriss Aghana Nwobu)
In November 2009, a group of ten Nigerian photographers, filmmakers and writers travelled from Lagos to Bamako (Mali) in a rented bus. They were planning to present a documentation of this journey at the Bamako Biennial for African Photography. Globalisation appears to facilitate mobility for Africans, but in the domain of mobility on the continent some problems persist and they are criticised by the Invisible Borders-group in an artistic and performative way. Travelling to Bamako, the group connected to CCA went on the move by road within Africa in order to avoid airliner logic, which is still often organised along former colonial hubs (like Paris for example), and at the same time affirm the supposedly implemented Borderless Region Protocol by ECOWAS in 1990. At the same time their trip was motivated by a desire to experience the 'invisible borders', border with no basis in geography, unnatural borders that were arbitrarily created at some drawing board, borders that cannot be seen from a plane. The reality of border crossings – humiliations, bureaucracy, corruption and crime – can only be experienced if one attempts to cross part of the continent by land. Mere months after this project, the Invisible Borders-team undertook a second journey, this time from Lagos to Dakar. Their destination was the Dak'Art 2010, the Dakar Biennial for contemporary African art. At CPG, their exhibition features photographic, filmic and textual works from this year's project.

Rem Koolhaas and Bregtje van der Haak - LAGOS WIDE & CLOSE

The exhibition also features Lagos Wide & Close, the 'interactive journey into an exploding city' by Rem Koolhaas & Bregtje van der Haak. This DVD represents a unique engagement with Lagos, capturing multiple perspectives of a volatile moment in its evolution.