Dis Lagos Life is an exhibition of photographs and digital collage exposing the pulsating heartbeat of an unforgiving megacity through the lens of six contemporary artists, who have lived, breathed, and found meaning by exploring the complex, multi-layered history, memory, identity, rhythm, color and vibe of Lagos, from the inside out. It gives us an insiders’ perspective, through the bold images of talented photographers, intent on interrogating, informing, and advocating for the greater good of this fascinating megacity. This exhibition takes viewers on a journey through the streets and occurrences in Lagos. It pushes us out of our curated bubbles into the raw beauty and harsh realities of the city, forcing us to engage, discuss, speak out, and make change – even if just in our little corners.
To complement these powerful images, quotes from five dynamic writers have been juxtaposed against the photographs, adding a deeper dimension to the imagery, as each writer shares their sentiments and reflections of this enigmatic city.
Amanda IhemeJaekel House - Restoration, 2018
Amanda Iheme explores the humanity of built spaces, and critically analyzes historical buildings in the Brazilian quarters according to an organic lifecycle. Her photos of ‘Waterhouse’ tells a story of the preservation of the legacy of Papa Esan, a repatriated slave, who used the remuneration he received after slavery, to build a water well for his household and the surrounding community. His house was called “Waterhouse”, and his legacy preserved through the establishment of the Lagos Water Corporation. Amanda’s images explore the birth, life, death and reincarnation of the built environment.
“There is something about this city with its vivaciousness, and clutter, and hardcore exterior that begs to be stripped bare. To be captured. To be remembered. With its yellow buses, and bridges, and waterscapes, and open markets, the city is alive. A constant buzz that conceals itself within the menacing grin of hustlers and the glumness of commuters too long in the heat and unending traffic, Lagos is pulsating with hope. This is why we stay here. It is why we return. This madness belongs to us all.”
Ayanfe OlarindeWaka Pass (A Side Story), 2019
Ayanfe Olarinde, the youngest exhibiting artist, presents photo collages, which address the struggles of city youths hustling for a better life and financial security in a witty, tongue-in cheek way. Her collage "Wakapass" shows a blocked rear-view mirror, covered with hands, while pedestrians walk past, commenting on the current challenges Lagosians are facing trekking long distances due to lack of sufficient transportation.
“I often think that there is the world and there is Lagos. The city is this cacophonic, kaleidoscopic estuary of magical and magnetic energy. Here we live on the edge, manifesting dreams and conjouring miracles. This place is an assault on the senses and everyday this city presents you with a new kind of dystopic adventure. Lagos is seductive, it fucks with your emotions, gaslighting you that you keep questioning your own sanity but you will always find yourself coming back. This city never truly unclenches its fist”
Poet, Journalist, Filmmaker
Nelly AtingTola Shittu V, 2019
The images created by Nelly Ating, a documentary photographer used to covering conflict areas, are an intimate exposé of unreported stories of those left behind by loved ones who have emigrated. Her images of Tola in her wedding dress, provides us an unveiled glimpse of the emotional turmoil, mental unrest, and heartbreak associated with deferred love and loss.
Dis Lagos Life
Brimming with dreams cradled in our mothers’ prayers
in faraway land
Fast and faster, the hustle and bustle
To check the clock, is to lose time
Of the tenacious and the bold, who lose their foothold
Mining the wealth this land has promised
Dis Lagos Life
Where blaring horns pierces through morning reverie
And each dawn, fraught with relentless hope than it
Hope so brittle to be shattered in a blink,
And mountain peaks flattened in a twinkle
Dis Lagos Life
Where crazy is the norm
Because sanity comes at a cost too high
A life where feet race beside wheels,
for pennies that will vacate pockets just as fast
But Dis Lagos Life,
We die here.
Oluwamuyiwa LogoAll Shades Of Form And Movement, 2019
Oluwamuyiwa Logo’s photos document familiar everyday themes, while spotlighting the nuances. His black and white images are pure poetry, as well as historical references. For example, his photos of the ubiquitous motorcycles, called “okada” which dotted the Lagos landscape a few months ago, might as well be archival photographs, with the recent ban on this preferred mode of transportation for the Lagos masses. He documents okada riders, known for their bold irreverence and the passengers, who hang on for dear life as they weave in and out of the daily traffic rush.
“For some reason (actually known to me), Quora has been sending me emails about narcissism. I mean, I’ve been called one and I’ve known many. Since this email infestation, I’ve learned that there are all sorts of terms that describe the operating system of a narcissist: ‘The Love Bombing’, ‘The Sudden Tantrums’, ‘The Discard’, ‘The Hoover Stage’ (when they don’t want you, but also don’t want anyone to have you), and the retaliating ‘Absolutely No Contact’ declaration from the victim. Scrolling through the pool of testimonies one day, I remembered walking through New York with my friend who had just separated from her mother- I described what I was going through with Lagos, and she said “You know cultures can be narcissistic too right?”
Performance artist, Writer
Omoregie Osakpolor ability to immerse himself in transient communities is evident in the raw expressions captured as he silently documented the displacement of waterfront communities since 2014. The photograph of a woman with a bulging head load, walking though traffic into the hazy evening smog, communicates the soulful uncertainty and hopeless resolve of vulnerable citizens of this megacity.
“Lagos is a city often spoken of in terms of ‘urban sprawl,’ a term at risk of flattening out and simplifying the variety and complexity of its urban expansion over the last fiftynine years. If Nigeria’s independence brought a wave of twentieth-century (indigenous) modernist architecture to separate the city from its colonial past, and birth a new indigenous identity to match the city’s industrialization, the 2000’s brought a need to separate old from new, dystopia from utopia with new gated functional areas of the city and economic zones pitched against the ruins of an old Lagos no one seems (as of yet) to know how to sustain or transform. The city’s shoreline, then becomes a site for future projection and potential that has not been without contestation. From the ongoing realization of Eko Atlantic, to displacement of water-side communities forcibly to grab land, Lagos has long been a city segregating its populations based on class, and future projections seem even more inclined to sustain the rich. Let’s hope the tide turns and Lagos becomes more inclusive for all.”
Researcher, Curator, Writer
Somi NwanduMakoko Loko: Life on The Water, 2019
From fashion designer to documentary photographer, Somi Nwandu’s work explores the different lives of waterfront communities. Her photograph of a house on stilts crosslayered with images of shimmering waste, creates the illusion of a ramshackle hut suddenly bejeweled. Her images beckon us to look beneath the surface to discover the hidden beauty which can be found in everything.
“I think of Lagos in fragments. Fragments of transitional spaces between one fleeting movement and the next. There is a certain reluctance on the part of the city to present itself in its entirety, rather choosing to present as an amalgam of visual and auditory experiences. A series of images and sounds, revealing parts and holding back others. I think of Lagos in moments, the city that gives as it takes. nothing is ever lost, nothing is never needed. It is easy to describe Lagos as noisy, chaotic, violent and ultimately tragic. It is true to define it as such, but Lagos is also calm on a Sunday evening watching cigarette smoke drift through a window that looks out to nothing, a potluck on a Saturday afternoon, heated yet tender arguments into the early mornings. Lagos is pain and solace. A contradiction of being. Lagos is home, till it is not.”