A Transient Body

Migration has played a poignant role in the evolution of man, particularly the (forced) migration of the black body as a means of production in the Western world. I am interested in the current-day effects that restricting migration has on black people in Africa and all the ways Africans try to navigate this prejudiced black hole; dangerously crossing the Mediterranean, identity theft, faking source of funds, getting into a country under the guise of schooling, contractual marriages, etc. Our bodies are transient bodies with knowledge of impermanence and restrictions.

In my photodocumentary project, A Transient Body, I ponder the existence and effects of borders. Often arbitrary and invisible, maps are often the only proof that these lines of demarcation exist, and we must, yet, place so much importance on them. What becomes of bodies restricted by borders within Africa?

Done in 2019, I photographed John, a migrant teenage boy from the Benin Republic, thrown into a world of domestic service in Nigeria, a border away from where he calls home and family. This was when I first started thinking of migration. I wondered about people, often young men and women, who have found their way into households in Nigeria working as domestic servants. John’s situation as a young servant in a country away from home first presented me with a dilemma. According to western ideals, this might very well be a form of abuse. However, I soon considered what John’s fate as a poor child back in the Benin Republic might be.

How do we draw the line between hypocrisy, ignorance, and social activism? How do we, and we must consider the realities of people who have taken to the road, caught in a web of migration when reporting their stories rather than get caught, ourselves, under the weight of our blinding privilege?

Activism is necessary, but rather than blind, performative, and uninformed activism, we must also engage in it, understanding the caveats; that through harmless activism, we may unwillingly incite violence, prejudice, or intolerance. That activism, even while intolerant, must not be inconsiderate, blind, and unforgiving. Knowledge and experience can hold contradictory truths, and we should understand this in activism and learn even to hold two opposing views as we direct our actions.

While using several art forms to explore or investigate themes that indeed call for social activism, I would, most importantly, want my work to question the reasons why activism is necessary in itself and highlight that how we go about it is crucial.