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ADS2: Demonic Shores – Imaginaries of Indeterminacy in the Age of Logistics

Remi Kuforiji

Remi is a London based spatial practitioner and researcher, currently exploring the intersections between the politics of race, coloniality, cartography, performance, and more-than-human metabolism. 

During his undergraduate studies at the University of Westminster, Remi developed co-housing typologies across different contexts, leading him to research and briefly work in Ahmedabad, Beijing, Lagos and Tromsø. After graduating Remi worked as an Architectural Assistant at Hawkins\Brown where he gained experience on an array of mixed-residential, urban-design, and education projects. 

His first project at the Royal College of Art, titled Hydrophobic Hydrophiles proposes a dynamic wetland scheme that facilitates optimum microbial activity, to remediate the landscape of Hemel Hempstead, from poly-fluoroalkyl (PFAS) pollution. This research was developed further in Metabolic Selves, a collaboration with the Serpentine Galleries’ Back to Earth initiative and the General Ecology project. 

Remi's thesis project Water No Get Enemy positions masquerade as a method of cartography to critique the neo-colonial extraction of the Niger Delta’s resources. The research from this project was further developed in a collaborative film essay presented at the 5th Istanbul Design Biennial.

Currently, Remi is working with Cooking Sections, a London based duo examining the systems that organise the world through food.

Water No Get Enemy: Counter-Cartographies of Diaspora aims to develop a model of resistance to neo-colonial practices of crude oil extraction and ecocide in the Niger Delta. By learning from indigenous epistemologies archived in Nigerian masquerade, the project proposes a new masquerade: a method of cartography that critiques harmful extractive practices by bringing multiple diasporic sites into dialogue through performance. 

Through conversation and collaboration with activists, artists, architects, researchers and performers from Nigeria, Water No Get Enemy proposes an innovative method of analysing resource relations between extractors and sites of extraction. Collapsing time and distance between these two worlds.

This is a call to rethink our relationship to resource use; reassess the ramifications of extractive architectural technologies; and renew our relationship to indigenous knowledge as a serious form of spatial practice. 

The final output of this project is a narrative-driven film essay, that follows the journey of Wale, a British born Nigerian, who seeks to assemble his fragmented understanding of Nigeria’s culture, tensions and histories. Through analysing the logistics of oil in the Niger Delta, as well as the archives of Kalabari masquerade, Wale and his collaborators create a masquerade of diaspora.

Wetness of Rivers State — Visualising the ensnarement of oil infrastructures across the Rivers State.
The Logistics of Oil in the Delta — The entanglement of industrial and artisanal production.
The Geological Legacy Of Rivers State — Revealing the interrelation between extraction, production, contamination, and protest within the Creeks of Rivers State.
Trans-Epistemic Cosmogram — The logistics of oil and the resistance of this, through the intergenerational knowledge archived in masquerade throughout the Niger Delta.
Mapping the Delta — Extract from the full film (see bottom of page). Please wear headphones.

Rivers State in southern Nigeria encapsulates a large portion of the Niger Delta, bound by the Atlantic Ocean. The Delta spans 20,000 square kilometres and is the largest wetland in Africa, comprising of terrestrial tropical forest, intertidal mangrove swamps and a vast network of water bodies in the form of rivers and creeks.

Oil was first discovered in Rivers State in 1956, and since the early 1970s, it has dominated the country’s economy. The capital city, Port Harcourt, remains the epicentre of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry. From here, oil infrastructures belonging to transnational corporations, including Shell and Eni, sprawl across Ogoniland, ensnaring and abstracting the living and non-living beings within the territory of oil wells, pipelines, terminals, refineries and storage facilities. 

Kalabari Masquerade
Kalabari Masquerade
Kalabari Masquerade
Kalabari Masquerade
Mapping the Masquerade — Extract from the full film (see bottom of page). Please wear headphones.

Despite the abstraction of the Delta through extractive cartography, the Kalabari people have preserved their traditional culture. This culture is archived and developed through the ongoing practice of masquerade. A performance of spiritual reverence, held during the 17-year cycle of owu-aru-sun (stretching the canoe of the water people festival).

During this festival, the owu (water spirits), who are custodians of the natural environment are celebrated, depicted and invoked through rituals, dance and song. This upholds the mythology of the water spirits, whilst also serving as a political technology that defines gender roles, village organisation, and overall world-view for the Kalabari. This performative ritual which exists in the space of religion, entertainment and logistical organisation, uses the human body as a medium; a living and mobile cartographic tool that provides insights into the material and immaterial planes of the Niger Delta.

The 1st Face
The 2nd Face
Wale Wears The Mask
Wale Wears The Mask
The Mask — Extract from the full film (see bottom of page). Please wear headphones.

This mask composed of deterritorialized fragments of red cotton serves as a cartographic device to analyse and activate the proposed masquerade. The fragments of the mask represent the Kalabari culture of adopting and adapting outside influences to create one cultural identity. The shell pattern on the face accentuates the eyes, whilst an offset cross symbolises the colonial violence mobilised through Christian missionaries. The crown of the mask is demarcated with a face of shells, referencing the owu headpieces that point skywards towards the supreme being.

Arriving at Deptford Dockyards
Pouring libation at Deptford Dockyards
Arriving at St. Paul's Cathedral
Pouring libation at St. Paul's Cathedral
Arriving at the Royal Stock Exchange
Sweeping at the Royal Stock Exchange
Sites of Diaspora — Extract from the full film (see bottom of page). Please wear headphones.

Wearing their traditional garments, and newly designed masks, the ekine (organisers of the masquerade) journey through London. They inhabit and spatially interrogate sites embroiled in histories of coloniality. The ekine’s presence reclaims these spaces by performing the rites of passage to manifest a Kalabari masquerade. A masquerade that shall materialise in both London and the Niger Delta, as a diasporic methodology of collapsing both time and space. 

The Owu of Thunder — Extract from the full film (see bottom of page). Please wear headphones.

Now adorned in a composition of traditional material, with added embellishments of the Anthropocene, Egbeledge, the invisible owu of thunder, reveals the past and present ramification of extractivist societies, whilst projecting a future of environmental coexistence. His costume is an intergenerational collage: A map that interweaves, reveals and critiques the colonial relations between Britain and Nigeria.

The ekine at the Royal Stock Exchange
The owu at a disused drilling site in the Niger Delta
The ekine at the Royal Stock Exchange
The owu at a disused drilling site in the Niger Delta
The ekine at the Royal Stock Exchange
The owu at a disused drilling site in the Niger Delta
Masquerade of Diaspora — Extract from the full film (see bottom of page). Please wear headphones.

In London, Wale leads the masquerade. In Delta State, Egbelegbe follows. Their synchronised movements collapse the histories and futures of London and the Niger Delta onto each other. Distance between the extractors and sites of extraction is dissolved. This performance is a methodology of spatial analysis; a temporal intervention derived from Nigerian knowledge; a counter-cartographic masquerade of diaspora.

Counter-Cartographies of Diaspora

Full film with extended and additional footage.

Please wear headphones.