• Emeka Okereke awarded France's "Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters": Acceptance Speech

    On Saturday, 27th October 2018, Nigerian photographer, filmmaker, writer and visual artist, Emeka Okereke, was conferred France’s prestigious insignia of Chevalier De l’Ordre Des Arts et Des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) by the Ministry of Culture of France. The award ceremony took place at the new Alliance Francaise, Lagos. The event was officiated by the Ambassador of France to Nigeria, Mr. Jérôme Pasquier who decorated Mr. Okereke with the medal of the Order.

    This award was conferred as recognition of his contribution to the discourse on art in Africa, France and the world at large.  The Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters) is an Order of France, established on 2 May 1957 by the Minister of Culture. Its purpose is the recognition of significant contributions to the arts, literature, or the propagation of these fields.

    Okereke will be one of the youngest Nigerian and African to be conferred with this honor. He joins the likes of Zanele Muholi, David Goldblatt, Shorna Urvashi, Olafur Eliasson, Tim Burton, Vanessa Paradis, Eva Green, George Clooney and many more acclaimed creatives who have received the same distinction in the past.

    Below is Emeka Okereke's acceptance speech and photos from the event: 

    Mr. Ambassador, I thank you for this honour that comes in the way of being conferred the insignia of Chevalier de l’Ordre Des Arts et Des Lettres.

    First and foremost, I dedicate this recognition, as with every good fortune of my life, to the Almighty who continues to guide me in un-dimming love.

    Some 15 years ago, I won a photography award in one of the most important photography festivals in the African continent – the Bamako Photography Festival in Mali. I was 23 years old. This would be the most obvious launch pad for what would, for me, become an intriguing journey through art and photography which, in hindsight, brought me a lot of beautiful encounters and priceless experiences. I would eventually, through this award, go to, and live in Paris – the first city of Europe I experienced. The city where I had all my culture shocks. Today, I have the French language – amongst countless other beautiful and memorable experiences – to show for this.

    But before all of this, it was first, meeting and working with the photographer and educator Uche James Iroha that began this journey for me. I was a young man who arrived in Lagos from the East of Nigeria armed only with the desire to discover what life has to offer. I had learned through my religious doctrine that if you have faith as little as a mustard seed, you could move mountains. But I also learned that faith without work is no faith. So I was ready to put all of that to test.

    Although, I would go on to study art and photography at the Fine Art school of Paris, with a scholarship from the French embassy of Nigeria and finally obtaining my master’s degree, my first photography school was, in reality, the ecosystem of photographers made up of the likes Uche James Iroha, Kelechi Amadi Obi, Amaize Ojeikere, Don Barber, TY Bello, Akinbode Akinbiyi, Jide Adeniyi Jones, Pa JD Okhai Ojeikere, Tam Fiofori and more.

    To be more specific, it was the photography collective Depth Of Field – made up of Uche, Amaize, TY, Kelechi, Zaynab Odunsi and myself – that would prepare me for the world. We never had a photography school in Nigeria, but I was fortunate to find myself in the midst of some the most ingeniously creative people setting the pace for what art and photography from Nigeria would eventually become.

    Everything I have done from then on, and up until this, could easily be traced back to the energy, vigour, and defiant spirit nurtured in those times.

    During my time in France, I learned, out of necessity, the French language. But more than in France herself, this addition to the Igbo and English I already spoke was more useful for the work I would do through the Invisible Borders Trans-African Project which, for 9 years, has seen me traveling and working across African countries, many of which are French-speaking. As a matter of fact, I flew down from the capital of Cameroun this morning where I am currently involved in the 8th edition of our trans-African road trip. The French language has helped me to do work beyond the anglophone speaking countries of Nigeria. For this, I am most grateful.

    This award, in many ways, underscores the fact of my relationship with France and the French language.

    As I continue to create and work with the French language especially in, but not limited to, the African countries, I am aware of the continuous colonial implications present in this relationship between France and it’s former colonies – which are stubborn remnants of a colonial past. My position will be, as always, one of speaking out against any form of neocolonial mindset, exploitation and maneuvers while upholding what is equitable, dignifying and de-colonial about this relationship.

    I gladly accept this honour, especially as I did not ask for it. I want to believe this is an indication that the French ministry of culture considers my work and my position with regards to the relationship between France and Africa as progressive.

    On that note, I would like to thank all my family members who were able to come today. I feel blessed by your presence.

    The same extends to all friends and colleagues who are here today.

    Thank you!

    Photos: Nyancho Nwanri

  • Emeka Okereke "Exploring a Void": Artist Talk at Galerie 5020/Salzburg Summer Academy, Austria.


    During an Artist's Talk in the context of the 2018 Salzburg Summer Academy (Austria) where he directed a class, Emeka Okereke discussed his works and experiences of navigating borders for close to 15 years. He drew from personal stories of encounters to illustrate some of the thoughts and positions that continue to inform his work and life.

    Specifically, he touched on and gave examples of covert, passive-yet-aggressive forms by which the violence of racism and otherisation is perpetually inscribed in the everyday European space while offering proposals on how to move toward a more relational world where the place of human interactions and exchanges is prioritisedover Capital. Where Capital is given its rightful place at the service of human lives rather than human lives exploited to sustain the machinery of Capital.

  • 16.07.2018 – 28.07.2018: Emeka Okereke lectures at Salzburg Summer Academy, Austria (Images)

    This course titled "Exploring a Void" focused on how we might reconsider mutual relationships in a world encumbered with rapidly growing sentiments toward nationalism and reinforcement of borders, while it (the world) continuously fights back the indispensability of an interconnected world.

    Below is an excerpt from the concept note of the course: 

    "I will attempt, as much as possible, to open the horizon beyond the enclosure of European, Western thinking and to draw attention to some of the post-colonial perspectives. The aim of the course will be to encourage students to use photography as a tool of inquiry in the exploration of selfhood at the cross-point between the subjective and the collective. It is expected that the programme would initiate a frame that allows for the intersection of different cultural realities. The two-week course will kick off with the reading of selected texts. This will encourage a thought-frame within which all learning and work will take place. Students should envisage collaborative activities that allow for substantial interaction and intersection of subjectivities. Although this is a photography class, students are encouraged to explore the possibilities of a multi-media approach involving text, video, and sound. The programme will culminate in the production of one or more bodies of work which will be the subject of discussion during a wrapping-up portfolio review session and final presentation"

    For the course, the overarching questions were: how can we put our respective subjectivities at the service of something greater – the collective, the communal? Concurrently, how can we translate communal experiences into subjective truths? Thus, the students of my course were of diverse cultural backgrounds and even generational affiliations. The outcome of the two weeks (which culminated in an open day) was a testament to myriad collaborations, exchanges, and proactive thinking – through/in photography and imagery in general. 

    For the most part of the course, the above aim was achieved and, I would say, beyond expectations. The beautiful surprise was how much diverse the group of students were. We proceeded, on the first day of class, from a personal place. Each student was asked to give their "first gift" to the class – that of sharing their personal "self" with everyone else. It was a lot to ask. But it did the magic. Thus, for me, one takeaway from the entire experience is: where differences are involved and conversed, proceeding from a place of generosity (what we are willing to give of ourselves) is indispensable for a fruitful outcome. 

    Below are some images from the two weeks: 

  • 18.04.2018: Talk at Kadist, Paris.

    Wednesday April 18th at 7pm
    A conversation between the artist Emeka Okereke, Dominique Malaquais and Lionel Manga.
    Kadist office

    The conversation at Kadist will start with a talk by Emeka Okereke, who will address different types of violence – “passive”, “daily”, “institutional” – in relation with his personal work, undertaken between Lagos, Amsterdam, Berlin and Paris, and with the collective Invisibles Borders project, of which he is the founder and director.

    For this evening, the seminar “Something You Should Know : Artists and Producers Today”, directed by Patricia Falguières, Elisabeth Lebovici and Natasa Petresin-Bachelez, will be delocalizing to Kadist, in the context of a series of presentations proposed by Dominique Malaquais and Lionel Manga, titled “Cosmocides: Art(s), Violence, 21st Century”.

    For more information visit:

  • 16.10 – 23.10.17: Guest Lecturer at Hartford University MFA Photography Program, San Francisco Session

    From October 16 – 23, Emeka Okereke was a guest-lecturer at the San Francisco session of the MFA Photography Program of Hartford School of Art. 

    The limited residency MFA in Photography at the Hartford Art School is an innovative program designed for both mature individuals with established experience in the field as well as recent graduates who wish to further their own practice and acquire an MFA degree in order to facilitate their professional credentials as artists and educators. It differentiates itself from existing programs in that the new program is an International limited-residency program.

    The program couples intensive on-campus sessions during the summer with a travel component in the spring and fall. The three summer sessions meet at the University of Hartford for two-weeks, during which students and faculty interact inside and outside the classroom. The two fall and two spring sessions meet at off-site locations (New York City, Berlin, and other sites) for seven-to-ten days. In the time between classroom sessions, students complete course assignments and maintain regular contact with their Thesis Advisor. The total time to the MFA is twenty-five months, of which only ten to twelve weeks are spent away from your studio.

    First time with the students was in Berlin (as a visiting artist) in May. The San Francisco session focused mainly on portfolio reviews and crit sessions, as well as one on one conversations with the students. For more infomation about the program, visit:

  • 18.10 – 17.12.17: Emeka Okereke participates with Invisible Borders in "Cosmopolis" at Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

    Invisible Borders is taking part in COSMOPOLIS #1: COLLECTIVE INTELLEGENCE at the National Musuem of Modern Arts Paris, also known as Georges Pompidou Centre. 

    From 18 October to 17 December, The Centre Pompidou is presenting the first edition of Cosmopolis: a new type of event dedicated to artistic practices that combine research and expertise-sharing. This platform, consisting of exhibitions, talks, performances and conversations, puts the spotlight on these new practices and creates conditions for exploring the social, urban and political questions they raise. Cosmopolis gives visibility to the various places where contemporary art flourishes, and to approaches and experiments concerning cultural translation, rooted in a local context but also part of an international network.

    “Cosmopolis #1: Collective Intelligence” presents approximately fifteen collectives engaging with subjects that range from collectivism and cultural translation to the transmission of knowledge, fromfood ethics and ecology to history and its fictions.

    The Invisible Borders Exhibition will feature: 

    • 80 minutes film of the Invisible Borders Road Trips 
    • Collage wall of images and texts drawn from photographs depicting the process of the Trans-African Road Trips, and newly created texts by selected writer-participants of the road trip.
    • Chapbooks from the writers of Borders Within Trans-Nigerian Road Trip 2016.

    Contributing artists of Invisible Borders: 
    Ala Kheir, Amaize Ojeikere, Charles Okereke, Emmanuel Iduma, Emeka Okereke, Jide Odukoya, Novo Isioro, Tom Saater, Yinka Elujoba, Uche Okonkwo.

    Emeka Okereke is Artistic Director of Invisible Borders Trans-African Photographers Organisation. 

    More information:

  • 30.06.17: Emeka Okereke participates in "Biafra's Children" Conference, Athens Documenta 14

    Organized by Olu Oguibe, with Faith Adiele, Phillip U. Effiong, Okey Ndibe, Eddie Iroh, Vivian Ogbonna, Obiageli Okigbo, E.C.Osondu, Emeka Okereke

    Fifty years ago, in 1967, a bitter civil war broke out in the newly independent West African nation of Nigeria, a war that would create one of the greatest humanitarian disasters of the twentieth century. Lasting over thirty months, the Biafran War claimed an estimated three million lives, mostly children who died due to malnutrition and starvation after Nigeria imposed a global blockade on Biafrans, who were demanding a secure homeland. The previous year, tens of thousands of Biafrans had been murdered in waves of ethnic cleansing pogroms in different parts of Nigeria. This forced an estimated two million survivors to flee back to their ancestral homeland in then Eastern Nigeria, in search of a safe haven. The ensuing humanitarian crisis and continued violence against this population eventually led them to declare independence from Nigeria, upon which Nigeria declared war on the breakaway nation.

    The death and carnage in Biafra caused global outrage. So did the collusion of global powers, especially Britain and the Soviet Union, in suppressing the Biafrans and their struggle for survival. In 1968, it was estimated that nearly 6,000 Biafrans were dying daily, most of them starving children. Photographs of Biafra’s malnourished children with their bloated bellies adorned the covers of news magazines and evening television news programs worldwide. John Lennon returned his knighthood to the Queen in protest, and Jean-Paul Sartre described Biafra as the conscience of the twentieth century. Even Winston Churchill, grandson of the British prime minister, wrote a series of newspaper columns deploring the situation in Biafra. Around the world students staged protests, sit-ins at embassies, and even a hunger strike in Norway. On May 29, 1969, Bruce Mayrock, a twenty-year old student of Columbia University in New York set himself on fire in front of the United Nations to protest Secretary General U Thant’s failure to take measures to stop the war of genocide against Biafra. Mayrock died the following day. Musicians like Jimi Hendrix and Joan Baez held concerts to raise awareness and generate relief aid for Biafra. A group of young French medics who volunteered in Biafra would go on to found the charity, Doctors without Borders (Médecins sans Frontières) in response to the human suffering that they witnessed there.

    For two days this summer, June 30–July 1, 2017, child survivors from the Biafran War gather for the first time in Athens as part of documenta 14 to share their stories of living through the monumental tragedies and traumas of conflict, mass displacement, and separation from family as well as bereavement, famine, and hunger. They will also share stories of survival, which are indebted to the resilience of the human spirit and the humanitarian intervention of people around the world who sent relief aid to Biafra or opened their doors to Biafra’s refugee children.

    Biafra is relevant today, not only because it represented the nearly impossible struggle of a persecuted people in their fight for self-determination and the establishment of a safe homeland, but also because the subsequent humanitarian disaster is mirrored in the plight of refugees fleeing similar crises in Syria and the Middle East today and their attempt to find safety in Europe and other parts of the world. The survivor testimonies of Biafra’s children reiterate the human cost of conflict. Alone the presence and the survival of these women and men, some of who now have children of their own, underline how humanitarian intervention can help save generations and preserve nations.

    The event has been organized by Olu Oguibe, one of the child survivors, whose archival meditation on the war, Biafra Time Capsule, is on display at the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) through July 16, 2017.

    For More information, see: The Parliament of Bodies: Biafra's Children: A survivors' Gathering 

  • 31.03.2017: Emeka Okereke, Panelist at 'Inhabiting The Borders', Paris Art Fair 2017

    This day of encounters and talks entitled 'Inhabiting the Border' is part of the fair's programme linked to Africa*. Open to one and all, ‘Inhabiting the Border’, is based on an idea by Marie-Ann Yemsi. It aims to foster meetings and exchanges with the key players and cultural producers who are committed to promoting contemporary artists from the African continent and the diaspora. Comprising 4 round tables, it brings together artists, exhibition curators, institutional representatives, collectors and thinkers, all of whom are working in various ways to reflect upon, construct and elaborate different outlooks and new perspectives on the contemporary artistic production of the African continent. Organised by Art Paris Art Fair with the support of the Institut Français, this conference day is hosted by La Colonie, an independent space for free thinkers that was founded by artist Kader Attia. 

    Emeka Okereke will be speaking in the following panels:

    10am - 11:30am: Contemporary African art… to what end? 
    The visibility and recognition of contemporary African artists is on the rise, with the artists themselves taking an active role, as well as being the witnesses of this evolution. Their wish is that this affiliation with the African continent, which is often a complex one, no longer just comes down to an ‘original’ and simplistic identity, one that is instrumentalized to boot. What is the place of these artists in the art world today and in the future? 
    Moderator : Simon Njami, Philosopher, Writer, Exhibitions Curator 
    Joël Andrianomearisoa, Artist 
    Emo de Medeiros, Artist 
    Katia Kameli, Artist 
    Myriam Mihindou, Artist 
    Emeka Okereke, Artist, Writer, Founder and Artistic Director of Invisible Borders - The trans-African Project.

    4:45pm - 6:15pm: Inhabiting borders: what are the ‘geo-aesthetic’ perspectives? 

    How can one endeavour to change the focus of ideas and imagination in order to find another way of inhabiting borders? According to Edouard Glissant, one of the functions of writing is to ensure that there is a coming together of those places where the world is envisaged. Guest authors, thinkers and culture professionals explore crucial aesthetic and ethical domains and, in so doing, find themselves at the heart of current debate on the meaning of art and culture and their potential in terms of changing imagination and knowledge. What is the current state of play? What remains to be done and what challenges await in the near future? 

    Moderator : Dominique Malaquais, Art historian and Political scientist, Researcher at the Center for African World Studies (IMAF / CNRS) 
    Nadia Yala KisukidiPhilosopher, Conference Lecturer and Programme Director at the International College of Philosophy 
    Jean-Pierre Bekolo, Filmmaker, Author and Film Producer 
    Emeka Okereke, Artist, Writer, Founder and Artistic Director of Invisible Borders - The Trans-African Project.

    * This first sentence has been modified from its original version as published on the website of the Paris Art Fair, to exclude the term "Africa Guest of Honour" as used by the organisers of the Fair. Emeka Okereke has made it clear from the onset that this notion of Africa being a "Guest of Honour" in a Paris Art Fair is highly problematic. This invariably informed his decision to be part of the talks at La Colonie, which although organised by the Art Fair, happens outside its central premises. Here, Okereke hopes for a platform and setting where productive conversations can be had amongst key players and audience sensitive to Africa's place and relationship with the rest of the world, and to further converse the agency of Africans in moving the notion of 'Africa'  forward beyond narratives or positionings of otherness and limiting definitions.  

    To see the full program information as published by the Art Fair, click here

  • 02.02.2017: History ASAP, Dusseldorf Photo Weekend