Today, I remembered one of my visits to a ‘less privileged’ area in Lagos, Nigeria; Makoko.
It’s a slum/fishing village that partially sits on the Lagos Lagoon. It has gone through its own fair share of drama (just like the Ijora Badia community). For instance, the Lagos State government in 2012 gave some of the residents of the slum a three-day eviction notice to create space for some ‘redevelopment of the Lagoon’ (WTH?!)
Anyway, rumor has it that the inhabitants of this slum are stubborn and protective of their heritage (I believe the rumors). They don’t want leave. They don’t want some high lovely building built in stead of their thatched houses. Some were born there and have spent all their lives there; mostly working as fishermen.
Sometimes, I watch from my University – which is also bordered by the lagoon, and see very young kids dive from their local boats into the lagoon. I hold my breath as though I dived into the water with them and unconsciously start to worry when they don’t come back up in 5 seconds. I think: if this kid doesn’t come back up, who do I report to? How do I get him out? What do I say his name is? Why would his parents let such a young child come to the middle of such a big body of water alone in a suspicious looking vessel (the word ‘vessel’ is used carelessly here). But then the kids ALWAYS come up. And I’m relieved every single time as though I really thought that they’d drown. Can fishes drown?
Anyway, most charity organizations now take it upon themselves to cater, in their own little way, to this community. I have worked with a few.
Now, on this particular charity event day, we had gone to share food stuff, books, clothing and other basic stuff with the community. We didn’t really have a game plan so we liaised with one of the community chiefs to gather his people in that vicinity of the slum for the distribution.
As the photographer for stuff like this, I don’t usually get to partake in the actual sharing, and over the years I have shaken off the depression that comes with not feeling ‘involved’ and I have embraced the fact that I’m able to zoom in on interesting stories; see expressions , focus enough on people to listen in on their discussion; see people laugh and show off their spoils; see people weep because they didn’t get stuff; see people run off and hide what they got just to come back and collect another ration; see people privately celebrate their new cloths; and so on. It’s a really initimate experince. More intimate than handing out stuff (or at least that’s what I tell myself to console myself)
I will share one of the things we (my camera and I ) saw on this day. (Maybe I’ll share more later)
We saw a dangerously hungry mind: It was this young kid; a boy. When he heard we had come from the University to hand out stuff, he ran to us and began desperately begging for books. He said he didn’t really want any food or cloths, but that he wanted to read. Like read anything.
My guess is that he was happy we were from the university. Unfortunately, we hadn’t brought much books to the community (we had given all our books to the orphanages). We had Holy Bibles, so we told him that we had those. Immediately he heard that, his face fell and so one of the volunteers quickly reminded him of the importance of also reading his Bible. The young man in his sad state replied the volunteer that, yes! he reads his bible! He even went ahead to quote some scriptures for us from his head. He just wants to read, he said.
His mom came to us and told us to forgive him (because now he was sulking real bad; almost crying). She said, ‘That’s the way he is. Always asking for what to read’
Not that’s something that blew the top of my head. I just kept thinking, ‘wow…’
Everytime I remember this story, I feel horrible for not collecting his mom’s contact. Every. Time.
I still feel bad. Shame on me.