Eko o ni baje (may Lagos be indestructible) : lens-based representations of transformation in Lagos, Nigeria, 1990-2001
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This study investigates lens-based depictions of transformations in Lagos, Nigeria. Using archival research, interviews and close visual analysis I examine photographic and filmic narratives of change and evolution throughout the city in 1990-2002. The decade ending the twentieth century and beginning the twenty-first saw scholars and curators interested in Lagos as part of a growing body of research on the physical and demographic expansion of cities in the “Global South.” Nigerian and non-Nigerian artists during this same period were also focusing on Lagos as a muse for representing the specificities of working class, daily life in African urban centers. My project highlights a singular image or scene by three such artists, Akinbode Akinbiyi, Otobong Nkanga, and Rem Koolhaas, who each created a lens-based series of images about Lagos’ continual transition. I argue that Akinbiyi’s Untitled [Woman in a striped dress walking across the sidewalk] (1995), Nkanga’s Tollgate to Ibadan #10 (2001), and Koolhaas’ Lagos/Koolhaas (2001) show Lagos as in a state of constant flux, depicting older spiritual practices adapted for a contemporary setting, citizens modifying the landscape for economic uplift, and historical architecture as physical markers of previous colonial shifts.