Tuesday, July 28, 2009

it is customary through-out nigeria to build your home behind a tall gate ~ something to keep your family in, and the rest / the unknown and known/ out. the size and grace of your gate is indicative of your status, your wealth, your need for privacy. despite the imposing facade, these gates are both beautiful and welcoming. to drive up to the gate and announce yourself, via intercom or the gate man, gives your arrival a sense of tradition and formality. who knows what lies beyond the gate?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

walked deep in the
remaining forest of Lekki today. in the omnipresent drizzle, in the grey mist that crowned the tall canopy of ancient trees. The National Conservatory of Nigeria was remarkable: maintained beautifully and clearly loved by the workers. 78 acres of lush wet rainy season forest, as dense and prolific as the culture surrounding and sustaining it.
giant tortoises roam freely. a glimpse into the den of a nesting mother was sheer delight for the children: her eggs glistening like pirate's booty~ her instincts forcing her underground to protect her eggs. Peahens parade for the more flamboyant peacocks. None spread the famous crest of color, but their bright turquoise necks were gorgeous to behold, in the misting rainfall.

The road to Lekki

You see everything on the road from Victoria Island to Lekki. This morning, we saw a dead man
thinly covered with baking sheets of metal, left unmourned and unattended, caught between the
two dusty lanes, in the past between people use to cross the packed roads.
i think i smelled him long before we saw him, there dead, hands and feet exposed despite
the metal cover hastily placed.
i rolled up the window just moments before because i smelled a festering stench like nothing i ever smelled before, in Nigeria or anywhere else. my stomach turned and flipped..
when just minuted later i saw the broken body, i know exactly what i smelled: sudden and violent death, caught unaware between two careless roads, where endless traffic crawls along so
tediously it is almost impossible to imaging how a man could be hit by a car, and not regain himself, dust off, and walk away.

Nigeria is a wicked place.
A chancy, desperate place where thin lines divide the living from the dead, the surviving from the destitute, the merely hungry from the starving. Where hi-rise banks and international money-lenders lend scarce relief to the fruit and bread vendors, toiling in their shade. where waist-length hair weaves, and skin-bleaching, light colored contact lenses and the latest European fashions run parallel with coiled braids,vivid geometric patterns, and the sleeping baby tied to the back. hustling. lagotiating*. bickering. debating. discussing. mourning. celebrating.

sit here at Aunty K's shop, in the bustling, smelly heart of EKO-Lagos island, and you may feel no need to go anywhere else. The great, the too-bad, the breathtakingly beautiful, and the painfully ugly will all pass by today, eventually.

Strong women carrying the day's offerings ~shoes, eggs, cloth-cut-to-measure, bread, chickens in a portable coop, effortlessly balanced atop corded necks and unbowed heads. A man herding one ram ~ distended testicles bouncing and dragging~ to a battle.
Children and chickens dodging mokados, mercedes, rusted out shells, and weighed=down pushcarts.
Dirt ceases to be dirty, and the unknown is familiar and the same.

The pure energy ~ witnessed only here, like this ~ of the purposeful crowds, busily filling every available space, the hustlers, the area boys, the strife, the sunken flooded potholes threatening to be lakes on tree-lined streets... the gated, exclusive estates, accessible only to the wealthy, via the same dogged and damaged roads~ where the amount of Naira who have to spend only rarely protects you from life.

def: *LAGOTIATING is the art of lagos market negotiating. This is a verbal and physical skill passed down through generations...