I have been to Makoko, a predominately fishing community for Charity Projects a number of times, as a member of the Campus to Community Group when I was in the University and even occasionally after Uni. It has all been fun and games playing with children and giving back in my own little way until I had to go to the community a couple of weeks ago for a photo documentary.
Ore my long time casual friend of Ore 007 photography reached out to me about a photo documentary and asked if I was interested. I jumped on it. We fixed a Sunday. After church, I met him up, we picked up other members of the team Rose , Juan and Glory and we headed for Makoko. Makoko is located at Yaba, just after Adekunle bus stop if you are headed from the Island.
I was excited to be going there for a shoot and certainly looked forward to it. Ore had made inquires earlier on how to go about our agenda. We bought two bottles of wine and headed to the Baale’s house who was to assign us someone to take us around, sort of a guided tour but it really wasn’t. The Baale welcomed us well, a little bit dramatic if you ask me 🙂 . We handed the wine and also gave him some money hoping this was going to be some sort of compensation for our chaperone. We were under a misguided impression that the Baale wouldnt take money from us 🙄 .
Anyways we were assigned two guys who took us around, we were warned not to randomly take pictures and keep our cameras in our bags. I wondered why but I kept to the rules and moved along. We got to Jesudegbe which is sorta the slum center, saw a Nollywood production in progress peeked a bit and kept moving.
We were going to board a canoe, the only means of transportation in the shanty but stopped by a bunch of guys claiming to be the youth leaders and as such we could not carry on except we obviously grease their palms. Our escorts tried to explain to them that we had already seen the Baale but they replied saying that this was their own territory 😐 and thus we had to do the needful. The back and forth which almost turned into a brawl went on for over 30minutes.
At this point I was weak not literally but psychologically. This was because I could clearly see the scuffle for money, power and authority in this little ghetto community. I was saddened to see a microcosm of our larger society in this shanty. I was disturbed that even in this slum, the struggle for materialism persists.
After realizing that money was the solution and coupled with the fact that we were loosing daylight, we contributed some money, gave them and kept moving. Although Ore had tried to explain to me that this was against the backdrop of the community tussle with the government and the demolition of houses in 2012, I just could not see how these separate incidences were related. All I saw was greed and people taking unundue advantage of their impoverished condition.
In Makoko, I could also feel tension and hostility during our time there. The inhabitants where swearing at us, some guy even told me his image would disappear from the pictures I took of him 😆 . They claimed we were going to sell pictures of them and make a lot of money. At this point, I actually wished I was. In contrast with the adults I was fascinated by how some of the little ones eagerly posed for pictures and the skills with which they paddled their canoes. I was intrigued by their innocence and hopped they would not grow up into bitter adults.
We made our way around, found a location for the shoot and Ore did his thing. After about 10minutes of staying put I wanted to explore. I have itchy feet, and a great sense of adventure hence when I saw a girl and boy paddling past us, I asked if I could join them and if they would bring me back then I hopped in. Ore tried to stop me but nothing and no one could stop my wandering self. In the midst of brown woods I saw structures that stood out and I couldn’t but imagine how aesthetic the community would look if every structure was colored.
I asked my new friends if they could take me to see the third mainland bridge and yes they did. I was excited to be moving around, sifting through streets, lanes and crescents all on water. On the outskirts, I tried to learn to paddle a canoe but after losing my balance twice together with the thoughts of splashing into the greasy water, I decided to stay put.
I was having a swirl time and didn’t know I had been gone for a bit, one of the guys assigned to us came to fetch me. While chastening me like a little girl, he kept on asking why I had left, saying we had not sought permission to come that far. Explaining how I could have been hurt, my camera taken from me and all that but I failed to see the risks he mentioned. I still don’t. I was only exploring the Venice of Africa.
I got back to the crew and they had made some amazing pictures. We got back to the baale’s house thanked him and was about to leave when he asked that we settle the boys. My head rang, settle? I was weak and irritated at the exploitation. I’d rather they had put a banner and a sign indicating “SLUM TOURISM HERE “and put up a counter for entry fees 👿 . We scrapped all the cash with us and handed it over to them. The dudes even had the guts to tell us this was not enough and I was alarmed. Also indicating that they could follow us to an ATM. We spent about 25k in total and here is a list of what all 5 of us could have done with 25k.
- Go Kayaking on the Lagos Lagoon
- Beach Day at Tarkwa Bay
- Day Trip to Lekki Conservation Center
- Jet Skiing at Leisure Lake
- Day Trip to Olumo Rock
- Cross the Benin Republic Border and Back 👿
I could go on and on….
Have you been to makoko? What was it like?
Beautiful images, amazing story, Well done.
Hey Leon! Thanks! I’m only trying to be like you.
Interesting Slum voyage. Never been there before. But hope to visit it one day. I always see it while on 3rd mainland bridge. Sad to see that corruption has eaten deep into the grass root *sigh*
You should visit sometime. Mhen it’s gone so deep sometimes I think there’s no way out ☹️
This is a serious one.
So, not all fun and games. I’m glad to see (just the 2nd of your postings I’ve read) you are given to community
service and that your wanderlust can lead you into serious inquiry. I am curious as to the social function of the
baale – is he connected to some organization or institution, perhaps nominally religious? Like Nnennaya I too
was saddened to read of the corruption but given the rootlessness of the community with so little investment
from outside, governmental or otherwise, it wasn’t surprising.
Carlo, the Baale is the community head, he’s the interface between the government and the people of the local community. He’s usually selected, appointed, voted or ascends the stool by virtue of royalty. This manner in which the Baale is chosen would usually depend on the culture of the community.
I haven’t been to Makoko for reasons you’ve mentioned above. I can imagine the hostility that you faced. It’s everywhere. If you go to markets and try to take pictures, or even taking pictures on the streets of Lagos, someone would harass you.
If you look at it from a different angle though, they may feel like you (the tourists) are the ones taking undue advantage of their condition. Look at the Nollywood crew for e.g, they’ll PROBABLY make a ton of money from that movie. Will they go back to Makoko to improve their lives? To train kids? I don’t know. I also don’t know if these people want their lives improved. Nigeria is a funny place.
Anyway, I think I’d also prefer that they charge a fixed fee for tourism and the money goes back to the community.