Invisible Borders explores new public spaces
by Victoria Okeye
It’s a bright July afternoon in Accra. At Nima roundabout, cars normally pass around the circle and pedestrians walk through, but this afternoon the Invisible Borders Trans-African Photography Project exhibition draws attention and curiosity. People slow, pause, and stop to see the displays of immensely sized photographs mounted on wooden legs. The photographs, like windows, are portals to Egypt, Cameroon, Sudan, Nigeria — scenes distant yet familiar to many in Nima, its own international community of sorts.
“This one, it dey for my village,” says Hassan Muhammad, gesturing toward a large-sized photograph of a Sahelian scene. Together, we look at the image of a donkey, a thin blue rope tying his hind leg to a desert bush. A young man watches over, at the donkey’s back. It’s a minimal, yet beautiful scene of the desert landscape. The image, Donkey (PokArt Waz Ere), was captured by photographer Kemi Akin-Nibosun in El-Garadif, Sudan. For Muhammad, who comes from Bawku, a small town in Ghana’s Upper East Region, it’s easily a scene from home.
Muhammad, who made Nima his home more than 40 years ago, smiles brightly, eager to share his moment of nostalgia. “I come from the North,” he explains. “I’m working here, but every year I go back.”
He speaks of growing up in Bawku and coming to Accra, a brief period working as a trader in Nigeria more than a decade ago, his tailoring business here in Nima, and his wife and children that he yearns to share this photo with as well.
Nima’s residents hail from northern Ghana, West Africa, and beyond. Traditionally an indigenous Ga settlement, the community has morphed into a rich haven for immigrants from Ghana and the wider region.
It’s for this reason that Invisible Borders chose Nima for the photo exhibition. “We picked Nima because of the location,” says Emeke Okereke, the project’s founder. “There’s a lot of dynamism that you find here.”
That dynamism is apparent as the number of visitors and onlookers ebb and flow. Some spectators come deliberately, others by chance, pausing to observe the commotion and then stopping by, a detour on their way to their destination. In the space of a few hours the roundabout transforms from a passive space to an active one. It’s a wonderful mix of visitors and Nima community residents regarding the photographs. As the numbers swell, vendors also gravitate toward the space, selling FanIce ice cream and sugarcane. Two girls compete in the game of ampe, while their team members circle round them and clap in unison.