A Baptism of Fire

Nigerian writer Unoma Azuah shares her personal reflection of Lagos.

By Google Arts & Culture

Lagos Soundscapes - Field work photo by Emeka OgbohOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

The harsh Lagos sun came down
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The harsh Lagos sun came down on the motley crowd of traders, civil servants, market women, roaming mentally ill, children, hawkers, and beggars, which formed an incongruous contrast.

Used tyres in LagosThe Centenary Project

Presently, a rickety bus called molue appeared
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Presently, a rickety bus called molue appeared, quaking and shuddering in an attempt to stop, people jumped out, others in the same manner jumped in.

A cloth being displayed after dyeing at the Kofar Mata dye pits in Kano, NigeriaThe Centenary Project

When the bus eventually came to a stop
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When the bus eventually came to a stop, the press of people from the inside and the outside created a temporary dam. Seeing this, the driver abruptly jerked the bus a few meters forward; the dam burst, spilling its contents.

Women singing and dancing during Ogidi New Yam Festival (2019)The Centenary Project

The above excerpt from my short story
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The above excerpt from my short story, “The Bulging Bag,” captures one of my early encounters with Lagos from the mid to late 90s. Lagos gave me my first baptism of fire. It prepared me for the world. 

Adire Cloth by Yoruba, NigeriaOriginal Source: African Heritage House

The “Molue” bus was the metaphor for Lagos.
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The “Molue” bus was the metaphor for Lagos. It was a bus that contained all occupants of Lagos including the poor and the middle class. It was a world that leveled our humanity as it ferried us across our destinations.

Women dressed in Adire singing and dancing (2019)The Centenary Project

The saying that if one survives Lagos
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The saying that if one survives Lagos, they’d survive anywhere else in the world is a truism. The bedlam I met in Lagos taught me how to think on my toes, it taught me stringent work ethics, it taught me how to organize my life within a chaotic time and space.

Unoma Azuah (2020-07-01) by Yẹ́misí Aríbisálà

In this wealth of experiences
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In this wealth of experiences, we found our muse and wrote our hearts out.

Oga at the top (2013) by Obinna MakataOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

In spite of the pandemonium
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In spite of the pandemonium, there were still spaces for quiet, for a contemplative walk at bar beach, for festivities and banters, for book readings and critiquing, for live performances to spilled drinks on poetry pages to illicit love affairs and to malicious and profound book reviews.

Credits: Story

About Unoma Azuah 
Unoma Azuah is a professor of English at Wiregrass Georgia Technical College, Valdosta, GA, USA, author of the novels Sky-high Flames (2005) and Edible Bones (2013). Her recent work on the lives of gay Nigerians is entitled, Blessed Body: Secret Lives of LGBT Nigerians. She has won the Hellman/Hammett Human Rights Award, the Urban Spectrum Award, Aidoo-Synder Award, and the Flora Nwapa Association of Nigerian Authors Award. Her latest memoir is titled Embracing My Shadow: Growing Up a Lesbian in Nigeria (2020)


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