MERGING THE ART OF PHOTOGRAPHY BY AYODEJI ADEYANJU AND THE ART OF POETRY BY ADÉÒGO OLÚWÁṢÈYÍ TO TELL THE UNFARMILIAR STORY OF MAKOKO…
Not everyone gets to live in houses that are built over scampering waters, upheld by unsturdy stilts. Not everyone gets to live at a location that is popularly known as the largest floating slum in the world. But check around and probably try to conduct a census, and you might just figure out the numbers. The large numbers of people who have to make do with the visible invisibility of a slum like Makoko.
Makoko is a neighbourhood, located on the coast of mainland Lagos, just right by the Third Mainland Bridge. A third of the community is built on stilts(wooden poles) along the lagoon and the rest is on the land. The waterfront part of the community is largely harboured by the Egun people who migrated from Badagary, Togo and the Republic of Benin, about a century ago. It’s hard to tell the population of the slum but locals estimate a total of over 400,000 people, as at 2021. The occupants live a raucous daily life, making a living off fishing.
Makoko has a diverse and colorful history and like much of Lagos, it is highly multicultural. Conversations on the floating slum are usually in a language which is a peculiar medley of Yoruba, French, and Egun, a local dialect. The slum which was initially just a place to fish has grown to be the home for generations of fishermen from neighboring countries.
Makoko– The Venice Of Africa
Makoko has been dubbed the “Venice of Africa“. This is because of the intricate form of the waterfront which resembles the layout of the picturesque Italian city, Venice. But just as you have probably guessed, the living conditions in both cities are highly contrasting!
INHABITANTS OF THE SLUM
If you visit Makoko, the first thing that will hit your nostrils is the blend of various pungent gutter smells. This is because there are no proper sewer systems. Talk about the precarious state of the makeshift homes? They threaten to collapse at one unfortunate sway of the wind! And the security of the community? It is left in the hands of the infamous groups of young men known locally as “Area Boys.”
But even with all these, many inhabitants of Makoko still dare to dream. Many, especially children dare to see themselves in high places, away from this slum that predicts a fate of failure and then hastens its arrival. They take the chance of imagining themselves in wonderlands, even though they have no real surety of reaching there.
And this leads us to another beautiful piece of African Poetry that was written by veteran Poet, Adéògo Olúwáṣèyí.
In this captivating piece(an idyllic ballad), Adéògo tells the story of a young boy who describes the penury of his community, Makoko. In the penultimate stanza, this boy goes on to dream of reaching the heights of the richest and most influential people in the world. However, in the last stanza he jolts back to reality as a result of his mother’s “resounding slap”. He then goes back to fishing- the activity that ensures the daily bread of his family.
Enjoy the piece and for this short moment, live in the beautiful uncertainties of MAKOKO!
Dreams From Makoko: The Poem
I’m a boy from the dirty crests of Lagos,
Upheld in a penurious room by stilts
Which by spring, are constantly fearful
Of the little tides of muddy waters
And by summer, dreads the wrath
Of thoughtless, intrepid wood insects.
I’m a boy from the raucous heart of Lagos,
Who grew up on the smoke from
My mother’s make-shift kitchen.
Wisps that strived to be calm in a daring
Space which threatened to be charred
At a flimsy flicker of one flame.
I’m a boy from the dubious core of Lagos
Who amidst fetid dung heaps and mounds
Is plunged in the conspiratory guffaws
Of newspaper vendors who offer the
Most dangerous of contraband goods
To pretentious, body-guarded elites.
I’m a boy from the unseen base of Lagos
Who behind rickety, beat up closed doors,
Feels safe enough to dream of dining
With the carters and the Kardashians
And to compete on the Forbes list
With the Bezos and the Gates.
I’m a boy from a pinnacle dreamland
Who after a resounding slap from my mother,
Dives back into precarious reality,
Reaching for my pitiful looking paddle and
Setting out on my raft, to take into captive,
Wimpish little sea animals who are unfortunate
Enough to be grasped in the wicked claws
Of my passionate fishing net.
Adéògo Olúwáṣèyí is a veteran poet and a student of Theatre and Media Arts from Nigeria. His works generally explore dissidence, post-personalism, faith and love. Because of his inclination to African works, he finds himself to be a sucker for creating African or Afro-inspired pieces.
He has edited and written for many popular publications and his poetic tribute(spoken word) to Chadwick Boseman still takes his readers/listeners by storm.
He is a lover of abstract art. So in his spare time, he can be found gawking at pieces from Pablo Picasso and Ogunlesi Paul. He loves music and listens to Asa, Brymo, Lindsey Abudei, Beyonce, Bukola Bekes, DAX etc. And apart from Barack Obama, he absolutely is an ardent follower of Michelle Obama, John Grisham, Oyinkan Braithwaite, Lola Shoneyin, Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka’s works.
All images were created by the legendary Ayodeji Adeyanju for 14.02.media.