Archives for posts with tag: observational writing



Gbemisola street in Ikeja is  very much like any residential street in Lagos. Left and right, houses stand loosely together, interrupted here and there by wooden shops selling a multitude of wares. Then you arrive.
Kalakuta Museum.

Home to the legendary Fela Anikulapo for 31 years,  now a museum, kalakuta shares with the public carefully curated snippets of Fela’s personal life, music and politics.

Today, I am a guest in Fela’s home.I  was excited.  I didn’t know quite what to expect.

Like many of my generation, Fela’s voice, lyrics and roguishness was the draw.

I followed his antics, feverishly read the sensational stories in the newspapers; arrests and re-arrests, rebellion and political activism.

I wandered inside. Cool open spaces. Shadowy walls lit beautifully, covered with pictures of a life lived with such exuberance and much intensity.

Fela’s stairs, bedroom, flamboyant shirts, glamorous shoes, outlandish fur coat,  life on stage and the beautiful people who made his life complete.

The sunlight poured down the high ceiling. I was transfixed. Family portraits carefully lined the walls. I followed the narratives up the elegant spiral stairs.

Like many of my university friends in the 80s, I gyrated to Fela’s pulsing music and shouted out his provocative lyrics. I was fascinated by his lifestyle and intrigued by his outlandish exterior.


Pelumi who showed me around was far too young to even visualise my memories but we both agreed on one thing:
” Fela get message pass today’s musicians”

Importantly, these messages continue to thump off these walls on Wednesdays when Seun Kuti rehearses with his band in Kalakuta.
That almost brought tears welling up. The spirit of Kalakuta is alive and well.

Perhaps it was the light flooding down from the ceiling.

Perhaps it was the life beaming back from the walls, kalakuta didn’t feel dead and dusty.

For a few hours, I was transported completely. Each piece, each picture, each newsprint felt lovingly curated, placed exactly in its place so I could find it today.

In many ways, wether you knew Fela or not, this house must be on your bucket list of places to visit in Lagos.

It tells a story of not just one man and his life but a story of life and living it.

Under the hexagon headstone rests the remains of the great Fela Anikulapo Kuti. A poignant resting place underneath the balcony where he would have looked outside onto Gbemisola street everyday.

 

It`s 7.am.
The strains of music are close enough for me to make out the shrill voice of the soprano and the strident choir cutting through the greyness of dawn. Its Sunday morning . Read the rest of this entry »

bolade art 2

Intensely passionate about art, Gbolade Omidiran is an artist with a mastery of his craft. A graduate of the Department of Art , Obafemi Awolowo University , Gbolade`s repertoire of original art  is extensive. In a few hours with him in his home in Ile-Ife,  I was  inspired by the  innovative mind of this man. Read the rest of this entry »

Nestled in the southwestern part of Nigeria is the ancient town of Ile-Ife.  Often described as “the cradle “,Yoruba civilization began here as  far back  as 500 B.C.


There is a deeply spiritual element to this town.  According to Yoruba mythology, ile -Ife was founded by Oduduwa. Odùduwà was the first Ooni (ruler) and king of Ife. Today, his royal highness Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, the current  Ooni of Ife is first among all Yoruba kings in status, hierarchy and respect.

Festivals

Ile-Ife continues to  maintain a cultural relevance as the bastion of Yoruba cultural heritage and tradition. Every day of the year, there is a festival to  celebrate one of  the over 300  deities worshipped by traditional priests and devotees in the town.

Often the festivals extend over more than one day and they involve both priestly activities in the palace and theatrical dramatisations in the rest of the kingdom.

Olojo Festival

One of the most iconic of these festivals is “Olojo”. Historically the King only appeared in public during the annual Olojo festival and it is a spectacular affair! Visitors and tourists troop into the town from all over Nigeria and the Yoruba diaspora: Brazil, U.S.A and Cuba.  The climax of the  Olojo festival takes place at Enuwa Square outside the grand palace of the Ooni of Ife.

The clock Tower in Enuwa Square outside the Ooni`s palace where the celebrations take place.
Why Is Olojo Celebrated?

Olojo is celebrated in remembrance of Ogun- the Yoruba mythological god of iron and the first son of Oduduwa. Ogun is a fiery god worshiped and revered by many indigenes of Ife including farmers, blacksmiths hunters, and smelters who  all traditionally make their living using iron implements.

Traditional Rites

The exact date and timing of the festival is one that is considered carefully and very much depends on the movement of the sun from west to east in the 9th month of the lunar year.The decision as to which weekend in October will be the weekend of celebration is the sole responsibility of the Olojo chief priest.

As part of the activities leading up to the grand celebrations, his royal highness, the Ooni of Ife hibernates for seven days in complete seclusion, not communicating with anyone except the ‘spirits’. During the festival and only for a few hours, the Oòni appears, wearing a special beaded crown called “ Ade Are” .


The King leads the crowds to Ogun`s Shrine-  Okemogun to pay homage and make traditional sacrifices  and prayers for the town and it`s indigenes.

 

 

On the final day of the festival, the palace of the Ooni is agog with activity. Groups of traditional craftsmen and women, Ife high chiefs, their court, children and the grand children of the numerous royal families all come out amid colourful outfits, music and dance. It is a proud day for all indigenes of the town.

 Olojo festival is full of colour, pomp and ceremony and one of the most thrilling sights are the  Lokolokos thrill the crowd and quite honestly bring an added element of drama and a cultural authenticity to the event.

Olojo festival is quite simply a fantastic cultural experience. It not only celebrates the history and beliefs of the people of Ife, it also validates  the traditions and ethnic identity of an entire race-the Yoruba people of southwestern Nigeria.

It is a proud day Ile-Ife indigenes. They come out in strong numbers to pay homage to the Ooni in his palace.

 

 

It was early Saturday morning and Lagos was awake and bustling, my friend and I were on the move; off to waylay the ladies with their cache of fresh fish.
Unlike me the alien in Lagos, she understood this ritual perfectly. The earlier you leave home, the higher your chances of getting anything done in Lagos!

Fresh Fish -Epe market

Fresh Fish -Epe market, Lagos

And fish pepper soup doesn’t come cheap. Whether like us you were cooking your fish at home or like many Nigerians you found yourself with a steaming, hot bowl in one of the many evening hang-outs, you paid a small premium.
Nonetheless, you found a way to hustle yourself some. And trust me, with some money in your pocket, good haggling skills and an easy smile, you will find fresh fish just right for your budget.

We arrived at the stall to set up our ambush and unbelievably, there was already a small party of people waiting. I was surprised at the mix of faces.

Fish sellers- Isheri Market, Lagos

Fish sellers- Isheri Market, Lagos

A young lady who worked in a bank and cooked fresh fish every Saturday as a treat for her husband, an older gentleman who was buying fish for his wife, a rather tense looking teenager who looked like he had just gotten out of bed and of course us-the two fresh fish disciples.

Suddenly, the atmosphere changed in an instant. Voices were raised, miraculously, a surge of bodies appeared from… everywhere. They had arrived.

Laden with blackened baskets bulging with their treasure of golden gills, the fish ladies quite calmly took their places behind the stalls and laid out their gleaming wares.

Fish sellers Falomo Bridge Victoria Island , Lagos

Fish sellers Falomo Bridge Victoria Island , Lagos

 

My friend looked at me. We just had a thousand Naira between us. Was there any real hope of outbidding the affluent looking madams who arrived in SUVs and big jeeps or the stern-faced market women who had come from the suburbs to stock up for the day?
As I waved the naira note in my hand, I realised this was going to take some special Lagos style haggling -I pushed my friend forward and prayed silently.

In the end, we didn`t get the biggest fish of the lot but in typical Nigerian style, we did not leave empty-handed; “Naija no dey carry last”!
The fresh fish fetish is alive and well and delightfully continues to wake up the senses of Nigerians at home and abroad.

 

fish peppersoup 1

 

Click here to for a video on how to make Nigerian Catfish Pepper Soup

 

Read more about Fish markets in Lagos here

JAKES WEDDING 1030

 

It feels far away but the strains are close enough for me to make out the shrill voice of the female soprano and the strident choir.  Sunday.

It all feels rather melancholic in an almost over-familiar kind of way. Perhaps the shrillness is a deliberate part of the Sunday serenade, determined to get me up one way or another.

The sounds are all around me,  seemingly coexisting quite organically outside my bedroom window. Impossible to deny, they march stubbornly into my thoughts, nudging me to life. Each sound with its own distinctness, it’s own singularity of purpose, each telling a story of the different lives fused effortlessly in this auditory Sunday morning offering in the ancient town of Ife.

My plan though is to have a lie in and thus  I try to subsume these sounds into my consciousness. Deep, bass thumping, rhythmic and constant like a heartbeat from somewhere in this  soundscape. Drumming perhaps. Another church certainly.

From the balcony next to my window,  two hearty voices  sing out some snippets of “Eleda Mi O”-and the echo is carried by more unseen voices. The sounds of splashing water from the apartment next door reminds me the Sunday morning stream of consciousness is on the move. Church is on.

All in all, I could probably have managed my lie in except in comes a very different beast. The “Igwe” ensemble have joined into the symphony of sound  and considerably racked things up.
It’s intense. This choir of revving and spluttering generators at the starting line is completely unrehearsed;  a rising fracas of sound pushed to the  limit.

My cue is complete. Get up I must. This is Nigeria.

 

I am reassured as I creep closer to the long awaited corner. Hopefully, the cause of this delay would become clear for all to see.

20140706-095845-35925118.jpg

I might just see the lone harassed immigration officer having to deal with all of us, perhaps his colleagues were taking a day off; that might explain this almost un-moving mass of tired, hungry and seemingly deflated Nigerians.

I am wrong.

There is a stable of immigration officers and it would appear that things liven up a bit as you get closer to the desk. People are marshaled here and there, questioned about this and that. The vigilance is commendable but does it all have to be painfully slow? As a proud Nigerian, it tires me to ask: is all this ever going to change?

When can Nigerians expect to be treated with some obvious compassion by those paid to serve them – by officials who represent something greater than the lone individual.

Don’t we deserve some conciliatory words after standing on tired feet for eons?
Don’t the mums rocking  tired, crying children deserve somewhere to sit and maybe an offer of some water?

Faced with these  scenarios , for me, the eternal paradox resurfaces again and again. On one hand is a real sense of confusion about why what appears like a straightforward organizational routine -checking and stamping a passport in an orderly and expedited way becomes a blinding, painful chore, takes hours to resolve and does not end quietly at all, as hungry, tired people will be heard one way or another!

On the other hand, I am home. My own inner sense of triumph is  real and palpable; indeed it  fuels my feet and my mind as I am determined to try and make it all make sense. And finally, as I stand in the baggage hall waiting to collect a trolley in another line, it all makes sense again- this line is orderly and happily swirling with conversation.

As I gyrate with bouncy feet with my mass of fellow Nigerians towards the exit, my relief is imminent and yes- I can taste the fresh fish pepper soup trapped in my imagination!

image

 

 

Despite the soothing green spaces, the powdery blue sky and the softly lit horizon,  I was completely unprepared for the flood of conviction which took shape in my mind.

Eking  out a living in Nigeria requires far more mental  and physical stamina than any other place I have had the opportunity to experience first hand. As I observe the world outside slowly merge with mine,  faces blur into a mist of life and the scope of  human enterprise is both energizing and challenging.

I am warmed by the ready smiles of the  roadside  hawkers, eager to sell their freshly farmed produce of corn, yams, tomatoes, peppers, garri, palm oil, plantain and a myriad of organically grown vegetables.

JAKES WEDDING 1979

 

The visual collage intensifies vividly as we pass through the iconic city of Ibadan; famously described by John Pepper Clark as: “scattered among seven hills like broken china in the sun”. In this metropolis of over 3 million Nigerians,  Ibadan is teeming with wide parades of people  seemingly on the move-engaged in an endless number of human activity.

All around me, in mobile stalls balanced on their heads, young boys, girls, men and women  have most of what you might need  on a hot humid afternoon and commuters stop here and there to stock up.

Lone bystanders look on intently, buried in their own universe of things to do and places to get to ; waiting for the next bus or vehicle to carry them along to someplace else;  moving or standing, humanity here is indeed in motion- man go chop-the hustle moves on.

ibadan 4

Despite  what for many  might seem like difficult odds and uncertain times, like anywhere else in the world, ordinary Nigerians continue to see to their established routines of work, family and enterprise.

Isn`t it  these immediate experiences and the  relentless energy to keep it moving which gives individual lives meaning and adds value to everyday stories?

 

 

 

His gallery was alive with colour, ethnic motifs and imagery rich in African themes delicately expressed in a collection of different artistic styles.

Gbolade Omidiran in his gallery showing me  his online gallery

Gbolade Omidiran  on his IPAD  showing me his online gallery

This was such  an awesome place to be.Here I was in Gbolade Omidiran`s art gallery, 5 mins from my home in Ile- Ife, Osun State Nigeria.

As my eyes darted in glee, adjusting to this fairground of colour and creativity, I literally didn’t know where to begin my visual feast. Every piece was unique, every piece drew me in and excited both the aesthetic  eye and the imaginative spirit.

Wall to wall colour- beautiful paintings by Gbolade Omidiran

Wall to wall colour- beautiful paintings by Gbolade Omidiran

Being a teacher, I am always so enthused when I get the chance to see young people engaged in learning and I can tell when young people are enjoying their learning.

All around me Gbolade`s students were clearly having a blast.

One of Gbolade`s many students avidly explaining the difference in styles between the variety of paintings.

One of Gbolade`s many students avidly explaining the difference in styles between the variety of paintings.

The bouncy ambiance and learning chatter  in the working studio which adjoined his gallery was vibrant.

Students (mostly undergraduates from the local university) were in various states of learning and experimentation; sharing and discussing ideas, actively discovering the balance between raw talent and self-discipline.

JAKES WEDDING 1642

Gbolade himself wistfully recalled his apprenticeship with the great teachers – Agbo Folarin and Baba Lamidi Fakeye of Obafemi Awolowo University.

The iconic mural outside the Department of Fine Arts at the Obafemi Awolowo University where Gbolade  completed his first degree in Fine Arts.

The iconic mural outside the Department of Fine Arts at the Obafemi Awolowo University where Gbolade completed his first degree in Fine Arts.

All in all, it was a great afternoon.

To have spent an afternoon inspired by this soft-spoken gentleman was truly satisfying and an eye-opener.

Despite what else may need fixing in Nigeria, people like Gbolade Omidiran and his contemporary Ibukun Ayoola were using their skills,  passions and individual agency to make their dreams a reality and inspire a future generation of artists.

It made me imagine how much more they could accomplish with support from the state government, you never know!

With Gbolade and his students at the end of a fabulous day.

With Gbolade and his students at the end of a fabulous day.

See more pictures of Gbolade here Gbolade Omidiran in Pictures

Click here to contact Gbolade and see more of his exquisite pieces of art online.

 

Fresh fish fetishism is delightfully a part of the psyche of  many Nigerians at home and abroad.

I cannot honestly think of a single Nigerian who would turn away the opportunity to eat some fresh fish done up in hot, spicy pepper soup.

 

 

 

 

Fresh Fish -Epe market

Fresh Fish -Epe market, Lagos

It was  early Saturday morning and Lagos was awake and bustling.

My friend was in the car and ready to roll.

We were off to waylay the ladies with their cache of fresh fish and unlike me- the alien in Lagos- she understood this ritual perfectly.

The earlier you leave home, the higher your chances of getting anything done in Lagos.

lagos ikeja
We hit the road

Whether like us you were cooking your fish at home or like many Nigerians who regularly found themselves with  fish pepper soup in hand, positioned in one of the many evening joints sipping a cold Gulder, Star or  Guinness , you paid a small premium.

Nonetheless, you found a way to hustle yourself some.

And trust me, with some money in your pocket, good haggling skills and an easy smile, you will find fresh fish just right for  your budget.

20140711-193057-70257023.jpg

We arrived at the stall to set up our ambush and unbelievably, there was already a small party of people waiting .

I was surprised at the mix of faces.

 

Fish sellers- Isheri Market, Lagos

Fish sellers- Isheri Market, Lagos

 

A young lady who worked in a bank and cooked fresh fish every Saturday as a treat for her husband, an older gentleman who was buying fresh fish for  his wife, a rather tense looking teenager and of course there was us-the two fresh fish disciples.

The atmosphere changed in an instant.

Voices were raised, miraculously,  a surge of bodies appeared from… everywhere.

They had arrived.

 Laden with blackened baskets  bulging with their treasure of golden gills, the fish ladies quite calmly took their places behind the stalls and laid out their wares.

 

 

Fish sellers Falomo Bridge Victoria Island , Lagos

Fish sellers Falomo Bridge Victoria Island , Lagos

 

My friend looked at me. We only had a thousand Naira between us.

Was there any real hope of outbidding the affluent looking madams who arrived in SUVs and big jeeps or the stern faced market women who had come to buy for further resale?

As I waved the naira note in my hand, I realised this was not going to be easy.

This was going to take some special  Lagos style haggling -I pushed my friend forward and prayed silently.
1 thousand naira

In the end, we didn`t  get the biggest fish of  the lot but  in typical Nigerian style, we did not leave empty handed.
We got  enough to make a truly satisfying pot of homemade fresh fish pepper soup –hot, spicy and just right !

 

fish peppersoup 1

 

Click here to for a video on how to make Nigerian Catfish Pepper Soup

 

Read more about Fish markets in Lagos here

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