Lagos

In Dubai (here used to be home)

(I wrote this while connecting on a flight from Dubai to Lagos, seemingly being nostalgic about the time I lived in the UAE)

the street still glitters in celestial whiteness of dishdashes,
as sky scrapes to wild human whims. at once wonder,
at once wayward to a cynic’s gaze

humanity still flocks into an eastern sprawl, like wildebeest.
at once a melee, at once a melange,
a rainbow nation of an orient kind 

dubai, still a fascinating cosmopolitan tryst,
desert politics romancing global commerce.
at once confounding, at once admirable.

happiness still sells for dirhams because
Arab money responds well to the decibels of luxury.
at once too-much, at once Y-O-L-O 

here used to be home.

An Appraisal of the Nigerian Creative Renaissance

This is such a good (and almost-balanced) appraisal of the Nigerian creative scene. I say almost-balanced because, while extolling the elements that a foreign and high-culture audience can relate with, it ignores two critical components of the Nigerian creative space - the unbridled creativity stemming from the “streets” and the dynamics of business. So far, the street culture - with the exception of traditionally upper-class-upper-upper-middle-class creative domains (Galleries/exhibitions, high-class fashion etc.,) feeds the high culture. It makes for a beautiful Nigerian phenomenon. The high culture, only with capital, network and distribution resources, have always “win” in controlling the overall narrative, to the foreign audience especially.

Beautiful article that didn’t do much to explore how the business value-chain is being managed and sustained, and who enjoys the returns the most.

The writer didn’t mention my current favourite Nigerian creatives - Terry Apala, Qdot, Lil’ Kesh, those genius Instagram painters, those Instagram storytellers - Maraji, Lasisi, SLKcomedy, Alutaemir, Lekan_kingkong, not even those advertising guys doing cool stuff. I’m suing somebody! 😝

“...the assertive Nigerian global influence today cannot be denied, whether it’s in literature, music, fashion, or art, with new talents appearing at a relentless pace..... But all of them feed off the scene in Nigeria itself—and in its megacity, Lagos, a frenetic engine of creativity.”

https://www.wmagazine.com/story/nigerian-artists-writers-musicians-fashion-designers

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Oshodi Tapa, A Play (and Photos)

Oshodi Tapa enacts an aspect in the history of Lagos monarchy, one of palace intrigues, betrayal, statesmanship, etc. that sustain memory for what we call Eko.

While waiting for the play to start, I stayed in a corner with publisherDamola ‘Wildeye’ Ogundele, discussing culture and entrepreneurship. (Full disclosure: Damola runs one of the coolest Culture projects in the countryASIRI Magazine).

The drummers cued in the actors and the play began. 

As one expects in any chronicling of Lagos, certain characters (including names and places) were default mentions in the playKosoko, Dosunmu, Akintoye, Benin Kingdom, Epe etc.

Good story. Brilliant acting, especially. (Eletu Odibo and the Town Crier are easily my favourite characters. The guy that played Eletu Odibo reminds me of one Sunday Akinwa back in university; dudes that own theatre stages with rich belchy voices. The town crier is a kolomental, with his mischievous obituary announcement).

The play’s major triumph (or its production credit) goes to its minimalist enactment. No panoply of traditions or roving dialogues or exuberant costuming as one associates to plays of the same mode by Yerima and Osofisan. For reasons best known to the director (I suspect a fixation on the attention-deficit of a social media slash theatre-consuming generation, the play condenses that thorny aspect of Lagos history, without seeming lazy. Maybe my undergraduate years of watching epic palace plays and reading my favourite British playwrights have conditioned me to associate “epic” production to palace theatre. There’s just nothing maximalist about this production. Or, who knowsmaybe art has also begun to respond to the new miserly national culture of a Buhari economy. Or maybe I’m thinking too hard about this.

The story tells us that Oshodi Tapa, a demure character, saved Eko from a possible palace bloodbath by a rather difficult diplomatic intervention, even as he’s an outsider. I hope to find more real life details of this character, and also if the corner of Lagos called “Oshodi” is a nod to his legacy.

Kudos to the genius Director - Wole Oguntokun

Miracles Still Happen

Miracles still happen. I’ve had the March edition of Harvard Business Review on the radar for a while because of the highlighted articles on its front page. But me, certified alaroro, couldn’t deal with parting with N2, 500 for a magazine, or N3, 000 depending on the part of Lagos traffic one haggles from. And the forex situation in the country has made me cancel auto-subscriptions on every goddam magazine! I reasoned, “No man should go hungry while trying to feed on knowledge.” (Given a choice between Half of a Yellow Sun and Half of a Ripe Boli, a ravenously hungry man will feel insulted at the gamble on food. Gosh forbid you tease him with The Famished Road. Or The Palm-wine Drinkard). I had tried to read the articles from the HBR website but I always ended up exhausting the limited free access, on other articles.

But this morning, while trying to negotiate a route around the airport, and in traffic, a magazine man approached me, and moved his goods close to my nose. I pretended as though the prominently displayed HBR edition didn’t pique me.

“Oga, I get Harvard,” he said.

I entertained myself on an incidental joke. If I weren’t trying to look unconcerned, I’d replied with, “Yes o, me sef get University of Ibadan.” But I looked stone-cold, as though I’d rather be talking to a gala seller or a seller of the newly-reduced-in-size-plantain-chips-of-Lagos-traffic.

I used the traffic light to monitor how long I have to put up my antics while ensuring that I didn’t lose him when the traffic light goes green. Dude just stayed there, as though seemingly convinced I’d talk to him.

I talked to him. “Na how much be Harvard?” 

“Oga, theeree-five!”

I observed the mandatory shock one expects from a master alaroro! And with a deadpan slur. “Haba! Guy!!! This thing na since March naaaa!” He seemed immune against my trick. He just said, “Oga, na theeree-thasan last”. I got more stone-cold.

“Ok, Oga, just pay two-five”.

Like every alaroro buyer’s dream, I noticed how he acquiesced with his new discount, so I jumped on it and stressed he would lose me if the traffic light goes green. He replied with, “Oga you don’t want to lose this magazine too”. He asked how much I’d like to pay.

“One-thousand”.

Right there, traffic goes green.

Seeing that I had motioned towards my wallet, he ran after me. I slowed down for him to catch up. He gave me the magazine while I struggled to remove money from my wallet. I mistakenly pulled out a N500 note and passed to him. He eyed me for a second and just said, “No worry, I go manage am”.

I honked in appreciation. I’m not sure if he figured that the honk meant, “May you never run out of miracle, in a Buhari economy.”

An Excuse

This was written in response to a friend who accused me of never
being in touch and I didn't know how to mention how busy I am with work

Look at the distant signpost, or listen, if you will, at the hoarse distant voice
They speak of a fool, a toiler, grunting under a searing sun.
Only silence soothes him, a flighty relief from strife, and
bombasts of excuses spun to pass the torch of blame

It’s Lagos, dear. Landlady of hustles and thatched hopes. New York without lustre.
She robs. She robes. I now straddle on bare foot and borrowed breath
Here, money-slow-to-enter, and players lay siege for callous gambits
And no one asks why the bar beaches to brink as men sweat to death…

Like a fly caught in a web of mess but playing Lazarus for a meagre escape
Welcome-to-Lagos, The World’s Third Mainland Street of crap and crass
A maze of everything insane. Man’s flight in regression.

But.

Only time will tell how far I go with my hustle (with or without the cheque)
But you must know I miss you too (even as distance keeps you from my neck)