The phrase ‘desire’ is a relative term and often has varied connotations attached to it. Little wonder then that academics have broached the definition from diverse standpoints that are often personal, philosophical or sensual (erotic). Deepak Chopra, Indian-born American author and a prominent figure in the New Age movement takes the philosophical view that desire ‘leads you through life until the time comes when you desire a higher life…’ And to further emphasize this idea, another American Author Robert Collier opines, ‘plant the seed of desire in your mind and it forms a nucleus with the power to attract to itself everything needed for its fulfillment.’
This concept is being examined by a group of emerging Nigerian photographers from multiple perspectives in relation to their environment and living (residential) spaces in Lagos – a mega city of almost 25 million inhabitants. Lagos has become a densely populated city with countless anomalies and as a result has carved out a peculiar niche and identity for itself. The diverse spatial identities of Ikoyi, Victoria and Banana Islands, Ikeja, Apapa, Mushin, Ajegunle and Yaba as well as the sprouting suburbs of Ibafo, Epe, Mowe and Lekki with their distinctive social, economic, cultural and political proclivities are not unfamiliar to Lagosians and the fleeting initiates that comprise the city’s expatriates. Lagos has become a 21st century urban phenomenon – organic in its nature and evolution and with a DNA that is laced with energy, tension, creativity, spectacle, entrepreneurial spirit and exuberance, and with all the paradoxes that are often associated with cities experiencing uncontrolled growth in population and poor infrastructure.
Lagos as a living space has its own idiosyncrasies and clichés. A ‘melting pot’ of different cultures where environmental factors have often encouraged or engendered the nurturing of spaces that have enabled and empowered residents from different strata in society to participate in the evolution of the city’s parallel ecosystem. Factors that create room for exchanges and interactions (in the social, economic, cultural and the political milieu) in building and deepening relationships between people, and their environment. These factors are innate in each individual and therefore are personal and unique. They contribute in shaping the decisions we make, as they reflect our interpretations of the world around us (our environment) and our role within it.
The influx of educated elite in post-colonial Lagos led to the growth of prosperous neighbourhoods like Ikoyi and Victoria Island. These residential spaces at one time the reserve of the middle-classes have now become enclaves for the affluent and expatriate communities. In recent times the new districts of Parkview Estates, Lekki and Banana Island have attracted the young and upwardly mobile with all the trappings of their newly acquired higher social class and wealth. These ‘nouveau riche’ are lured by the modern infrastructure and amenities that are part of the architecture, design and the overall fabric of the environment.
The way we conceive, design and create our spaces has huge impact on our physical and mental well-being. Modern urban planning and designs are being tailored to appeal to our ‘fantasies’ and sold to us as urban idylls. The peculiar nature and character of Lagos buttresses this fact with poverty stricken districts starkly juxtaposed with affluent neighbourhoods. It has become apparent that apart from the political, social and economic elements that influence our decisions to aspire for an upgrade to affluent and ‘safer’ environments also critical in the decision making are our aspirations. They ensure that our happiness, comfort, security and safety are considered and hopefully guaranteed in our new environment.
The participants have approached this project from diverse perspectives, examining different elements of the concept including the subjective, surreal and the pragmatic. They will attempt to explore and analyze the identities of the locales and spaces as exemplified in the paradoxes that are tangible within the routines of the city’s (Lagos) daily life. They will also discuss identities, connections or affiliations to changes in the evolution of neighbourhoods’ brought about by radical shifts in policies and perspectives. These ‘changes’ are best exemplified by the demolition of Maroko (once a marginal Lagos community) and its appropriation as part of the Lekki district.
It is apt to describe this exhibition as unconventional as participants are obligated to approach the subject matter from varied perspectives. The idea is to attempt the fusion of human desires with visual interpretation of the abstract and hopefully to arrive or agree on a discernible formation or structure. The participants’ diverse views will consider the unique personalities and characteristics of our spaces (place or neighbourhood) and their inherent identities. And cross reference these with existing social, economic, political, cultural, and religious and even gender related factors – elements that impact on our well-being and sway the way we perceive the world.
The following art photographers are contributing participants to the exhibition; Ebun Akinbo, Ayanfe Olarinde, Ralph Eluehike, Oluwawaheed Kayode, Israel Aigberadion, Omoregie Osakpolor, Obasola Bamigbola, Adedolapo George, Eniola Odunuga, Segun Adewusi, Sonayon Thomas and Christopher Nelson Obuh.
Otuke Charles Ologeh
- Freedom Park, Lagos