Lagos, a megacity with a population of almost twenty million people, is located in the South-Western part of Nigeria, bordering the Republic of Benin on the west and the Atlantic Ocean on the south. The city which was Nigeria’s former administrative capital and is the country’s centre of commerce typically belong to the Yoruba ethnic group but draws migrants from across Nigeria and West Africa.
Several photographers, local and international, have attempted to capture the story of Lagos. Quite a number have largely focused on the city’s landscape and aesthetics, while a few others have gone further to explore the space with its peculiarities, contradictions, and paradoxes, dissecting the space by focusing on different fragments that make the city unique. For example, Charles Otuke Olugeh’s sixteen years work on Oshodi, a commercial neighbourhood in the city of Lagos, shows how continued focus on a specific subject matter can help in telling the story of that city.
In an ongoing series, Adeola Olagunju, a Nigerian photographer, is exploring rural-urban migration and the distinct cosmopolitanism of Lagos through an intimate portrait of one neighbourhood; the Hausas of Idi-Araba. The series which began in 2013, focuses on the migration of this one ethnic group, its integration and fusion with other cultures in Lagos.
The Idi-Araba neighbourhood, located on the mainland of Lagos, is home to Hausa Muslims who, over many generations, have migrated to Lagos from the Northern part of Nigeria. Members of the community engage in a diverse range of work activities, from butchers, money changers, leather goods merchants, to porters, cleaners and security guards. Some parts of the neighbourhood’s aesthetics, architecture, language and aura are similar to what is found in Northern Nigeria, resulting from the cultural, social and religious influences of the migrants.
For Olagunju, the success of this on-going work has been in negotiating access and getting intimate with an ethnic group that would otherwise be foreign to her and inaccessible. The Hungarian photojournalist, Robert Capa, once said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” Olagunju’s photographic gaze is intimate, and this was achieved by spending time with people in the community until they opened up to her and gave access to parts of their lives that would normally be closed off to an outsider.
See photos from the series below.