I submitted this piece as an entry for a travel writing competition. They still haven’t got back to me so that doesn’t bode well for my aspirations as a writer. Or at the very least one who travels and is paid to regale others – because they’ve asked, not because I want to flex my shaded-in map of the world. (Maybe they saw it and died from the horror of how bad it was?) Regardless of their lack of response I still really love this piece, for one reason, I sort of cheated. Lagos is the city of my birth and early life, I could never feel like a tourist there. This forced me to shift perspectives in writing which is something I haven’t really done much of before. Secondly I discovered the word ‘weavery‘ didn’t exist in dictionaries and felt myself a Shakespeare so I corrected the world’s error. (very early days in Ade’s ‘writing career’).
Lagos, the city of my birth, named so by Portuguese explorers because of its similarities and connections to their Lagos, a maritime town. Their Lagos I know nothing of, but I would like to think the average Portuguese folk would know plenty about my Lagos. The second most populous city in the entire African continent, it is a hub of financial activity and port to the world. I am unequivocally biased in my admiration and respect for the city as I was raised there; it’s a place I carry with me wherever I go and has shaped my perception of the world. Silence has never been in correspondence with Lagos and its inhabitants but that can be expected for a city that beacons for an entire continent.
Lagos welcomes its visitors with a sweltering gust of humidity that will reduce your sweat glands to tears. As you touch down on Murutala Muhammed Airport and once you have exited the plane, sometimes even before the unbridled joy of passport control and immigration, you will have already contributed to the essence of its being.
A city with a diverse culture of people: Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Fulani, who have come together in search of city life and prosperity that is for the taking. Constructing their own form of the English language to dissolve cultural and ethnic barriers, “Oga na wetin you wan buy” (Sir, what would you like to purchase?) is something you might hear while perusing one of the many market stalls. A shopkeeper with no assumptions on what language you speak is still ready to try and do business with you, and business is haggling. You could get that purse for its quoted price or you could try your hand at the ancient art of bartering. But don’t be fooled by your ego, the local seller will always come out on top.
Influences of western cultural aesthetics can be seen but the traditional Nigerian ways have not been decommissioned. You could see a teenage boy with a “Snapback Hat” but you’re just as likely to see the complex and elaborate weavery of the Yoruba headscarf adorned on a woman who struts with peacockish grace. You’ll see mothers and sisters wrapping children around their backs, not a buggy in sight.
The people are just as magnificent as the city, if not more, from the bus conductors who orchestrate rows of people into their rusty yellow saunas with wheels to the street children fashioning their own futures with great entrepreneurial gusto, accosting you in the nicest possible ways to get your patronage.
The city is not without its flaws, you will rue the day you ever decide to travel by car during rush hour and the ever present shadow of bribery and corruption will follow you almost everywhere you go. However it is a quirk that must be reconciled with unfortunately, an internal change the city and country must wrestle with.