The other day (Tuesday, June 28th), Casey and I ventured out into the streets of Ajao Estate, Lagos, Nigeria on our own. We weren’t sure what we wanted to do, but we both knew that we wanted to capture some intriguing shots. We debated walking to an intersection (known as the “Junction”) and finding a high location to take telephoto shots of the locals or taking photos of each other riding on the mopeds (called “okadas”); however, as luck would have it, an Arik driver conveniently pulled into our hotel’s driveway. Casey didn’t hesitate to turn this into our advantage. We hopped in the van and sped off to Oshodi Market.
Oshodi Market is similar to other markets in Lagos in the fact that it’s an outdoor market, it’s crowded with numerous stalls packed closely together, and bustling with people. They sell food, fabric, electronics, clothes, shoes, household items, and much more. It is a little intimidating at first to go from the peace of a familiar Arik van into the chaos of a Nigerian outdoor market. But it was awesome. We threw caution to the wind, if you will, and cast aside any worries of being left alone on the side of the freeway in a strange area. We heard shouts of “oyinbo” (meaning “white person”) from many and eagerly snapped our shots.
The surprising aspect of Nigeria is that everyone is amazingly friendly! It still bewilders me how much friendlier the locals here are than people in the US. They greeted us warmly with their shouts of oyinbo and most let us snap their photo. (“Snap” or “snapping” is their lingo for taking a photo.) As a generalization, the younger generations were more accepting of having their photo taken by foreign oyinbos, but most didn’t seem to mind. We smiled and waved and talked in Pidgin English and Yoruba (one of the main Nigerian languages of the southern region) when we could. Casey impressed many locals with his Yoruba. I think trying to speak their language helped us to be accepted because they could tell that we weren’t just strangers, but people who want to learn about their culture. A few people asked us why we were taking photographs of them and we explained that we wanted them for ourselves to remember everyone and the market. We also told them we’d like to write a book about Nigeria to share the beautiful aspects of the country with the rest of the world. They were happy with our reasons and let us take more photos of them.
All in all, it was a successful day! We made new acquaintances, and one man even gave us two free cups! One was green and the other blue to match Casey’s and my shirts. Casey found two men who were interested in buying his Pentax K-x camera, so we’ll see if they decide to purchase it. He also took a time-lapse of the busy street which turned into an enjoying video. I told him to pair it with an Asa song (she’s a Nigerian singer), so we’ll see what he does.
This visit to Oshodi Market marks the first day of our travels to document Lagos and how the locals live. As stated above, we are trying to create a book about Nigeria with photos of the beautiful and complementing aspects of the country, starting with Lagos. Our goal is to see the highlights of the country as well as the sights not normally seen by tourists. Nigeria isn’t really a touristy country, but maybe with our help, other countries can see how lovely Nigeria can be.
Last December, I visited Nigeria for the first time. Casey took me to the Eastern part of the country. We flew into Calabar, drove to and stayed at Obudu Cattle Ranch, then drove onto Abuja. Overall, we drove around twelve hours total. In that time, we were able to see the magnificent countryside that a lot of locals don’t even get to see. It was a wonderful experience and made me appreciate the country even more. If you just stay in Lagos or Abuja (the biggest cities), the crowds, noise, and pollution can be draining. But there is much more to Nigeria than you know. We’d like to share our experiences with others and show Nigeria as we see it: an outstanding country with a picturesque countryside, friendly citizens, and hidden gems even in the busiest of cities.