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Medina Dugger: Images from Underground

Young Lagosian photographers examine the corners of their city that often go unseen.

Images courtesy of LagosPhoto

By Medina Dugger

LagosPhoto 2012 brought together international talents like Stanley Greene, a five-time World Press Award winner; Benedicte Kurzen, whose work was on display at the prestigious Visa Pour l’Image; and Nigerian heavyweight Akintunde Akinleye, also a World Press winner; alongside up-and-coming local talent.

On July 16th, residents of Makoko were given 72 hours notice to vacate, after which time the Lagos State Government deployed its marine force and state security task force to begin tearing down homes, churches and schools.

One such young photographer is Aderemi Adegbite, a self-taught photojournalist and documentary photographer. For his entry in LagosPhoto, Adegbite photographed the demolition of Makoko, a century-old settlement of wooden houses on stilts situated in the Lagos Lagoon, the large shallow body of water from which the city takes its name.

On July 16th, 2012, residents of Makoko were given 72 hours notice to vacate by the Lagos State Ministry of Waterfront, after which time the Lagos State Government deployed its marine force and state security task force to begin tearing down homes, churches and schools. The demolition, which is temporarily on hold, has left one person dead and more than 20,000 people homeless in a community of 85,000 people.

Adegbite’s photograph shows the demolition of one such structure, while in the foreground a group of young boys continue their daily routine despite eviction, washing themselves in the same water that has provided the foundation for their lives up to this point. Evicted residents now cook and sleep in their various fishing boats on the lagoon at night. Adegbite says, “The recent onslaught by the Lagos government against slums in its megacity project is fostering the impression that the state is doing everything to chase away the poor from Lagos.”

Another breakthrough photographer, Bunmi Adedipe, made his debut with two different series, “The Underground Economy,” which includes portraits of leather makers eking out a living in the Nigerian leather market (a sector of the economy which Business Day estimates as a 43.4 billion dollar industry) and “Waste to Wealth,” a series documenting the Lagosians who separate items such as iron, copper and aluminum from dump sites and export the reclaimed materials to factories in China to be recycled. Nigeria takes in nearly 500 tonnes of discarded electronics daily, making it one of the world’s largest sites garbage dumps for e-waste.

In addition to simply showcasing Lagos’s best photographs, one of the goals of LagosPhoto is to promote new Nigerian talent. Adegbite and Adedipe hold their own among heavyweights.

Medina Dugger is the senior project coordinator and co-curator of LagosPhoto.

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