08 Sep LAGOS AND THE “CHANGE” WE CAN SEE
The metropolitan capital city of Lagos in Nigeria is an economic and cultural hub that most Nigerians find irresistible. An eclectic pool of diverse people, cultures and interests, the city holds a certain allure that inadvertently blends these peculiarities to create a beautiful, enigmatic environment for everyone who visits. In recent times, a global revolution has ignited an interest in uniting the people of the world and seeking to embrace and understand cultures and terrains that were not familiar. This trend has permeated all parts of popular culture and tourism in Nigeria and Lagos especially is viewed with more respect and admiration. Tourists do not only want to visit, they want to speak in Pidgin, try some jollof rice and learn Shaku Shaku. Lagos has opened its shores and given these voyagers a grand welcome and has risen admirably to the occasion; resplendent in all its glory and beautiful in its imperfections.
The graffiti and street art trend began about a year ago when the Lagos state government commissioned some artists to beautify the city in commemoration of its 50th year and as an instinctive response to the world’s changing dynamic. Some of the work done were actually completed and publicly recognized long after the celebrations wore off but the effects will probably linger for much longer. The works done include murals, graffiti, sculptures and all other intricacies of art portraying culture, heritage and history with such deliberate efforts and an urban twist that make them worth the rave. It means a lot to average Nigerian youngsters to see themselves properly represented on their own turf and in surroundings they are familiar with displays of excellent artistry on a level they can aspire to. So more than anything, it’s been great for morale.
Grafitti on public property is considered to be vandalism and thus highly prohibited in many parts of the world. In existence since ancient times and having evolved through centuries and social practices, it has become a recognized medium of expression and socio-political advocacy. Banksy, the famous England-based graffiti artist whose identity remains anonymous till date, rocked the globe with his political activism by the means of satirically poised graffiti and street art now simply known as “Banksys”. Although he’s acquired quite a controversial reputation, his worldwide fame does little to undermine the powerful significance of artistic talent combined with an inclination to inspire change. In Lagos, the transformation is particularly significant because the art reflects the distinct peculiarities of each location; The Fisherman in Badagry (known as a beautiful coastal city), Drummer in Ikorodu (known for its many festivities and cultural affiliations), Youth Empowerment in Yaba( hub of the most popular academic institutions), the graffiti on Berger and Ozumba Mbadiwe both highly commercial routes, and several more interesting sights.
A project of this capacity attracted numerous young initiatives and several brilliant artists and collaborators. Visual artists Karo Akpokiere and Kelani Abass created Angel of Light depicting a generator with wings, a metaphor on the country’s electricity problems. Polly Alakija painted the startlingly expressive faces under Falomo Bridge, a tribute to Lagosians of all ages. Self- taught Tunde Alara worked on the murals in downtown Obalende and took the creative initiative to paint Danfo buses in Onike(a major symbol of Lagos living). Particularly laudable is Osa Okunkpolor known as Osa7 who dubbed his mission ‘The Eko Tag Project’, took up the wide stretch of road on Ozumba Mbadiwe and single-handedly completed an expressively detailed graffiti of the origin of Lagos. He shared his entire creative process and received a lot of love and support. Other talented artists took up spaces in groups and went ahead to help to unveil the unfading beauty of Lagos. As it gradually takes roots, we believe it was not a transformation but a revelation of yesterday’s glory, today’s potential and tomorrow’s promise; Lagos at it’s finest.