A Lagos of Memories

A reflection on Lagos by the acclaimed Nigerian writer Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún.

By Google Arts & Culture

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

I have been here before
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I have been here before, many times, in dreams and lifetimes. There was a time when the stretch of road between Ìbàdàn and Ọjọ́ta was dammed with three tolls through which the government milked its citizens by another name. 

Untitled (2014) by Obinna MakataOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

Another, before I was old enough
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Another, before I was old enough to write, when the snakey bridge that now connects the Island to the Mainland was just an idea in the mind of the military regime that made the city its base.

Idumota Market bus stop (2019)The Centenary Project

I was here, sometimes
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I was here, sometimes only in memories and news, when the many coup announcements that littered the eighties had “Dodan Barracks” as the most topical item. Once the head of the government, it’s now a relic awaiting restoration and opening as a museum of our collective history.

Chromatin (series) (2017) by Medina DuggerOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

One time, when I lived
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One time, when I lived with my aunt at Ọkọ́ta, I ran outside at the sound of a deafening noise that threatened to knock the roof off the house. Only I wasn’t familiar with it. Outside, the culprit flew towards the sun, tyres still visible from a recent take-off. 

Self-Portrait (2018) by Joseph ObanubiContemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

At regular hours from then
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At regular hours from then on, it came back heading in the same direction I could only imagine, carrying passengers I would never meet to places I would probably eventually see. The sight, however, was majestic, the closest I’d ever been to almost touching the tail of an aircraft. 

Another Avant Garde (2015) by Kadara EnyeasiOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

How crazy it seemed
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How crazy it seemed, even then, that the working-class slum bore daily witness to the exodus of some of the country’s best and well-to do.

Revered Dream Sellers of Lagos (2019) by Victor EhikhamenorRele Arts Foundation

Each memory was a lifetime
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Each memory was a lifetime, each recall accompanied by the image of someone no longer there: the aunt now departed, relatives who live in many places around the city, neighbours in Ìbàdàn to whom vacation to Lagos was something fabulous to report on when one returned, school teachers who requested written reports, and the blurry places and faces of childhood no longer as tangible. 

Godspower with surfboard (2018) by @__tseOriginal Source: Homecoming Festival

The name Tarkwa Bay
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The name “Tarkwa Bay” remained, only because one day in primary school, we went on an excursion that took us into the hold of a ship, which was headed to the Bay. 

It never did
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It never did, because we had to return to Ibadan before dark.

Backflips at Tarkwa Bay (2018) by @__tseOriginal Source: Homecoming Festival

When I visited Tarkwa Bay myself
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When I visited Tarkwa Bay myself just a few years ago, it seemed like an ordinary beach unworthy of such a hold on my memory for such a long time.

Western Reef Heron fishing (2020) by Adedotun AjibadeOriginal Source: Adedotun Ajibade

Often, I visited my brother
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Often, I visited my brother who lived near Àkọka, near a canal that connected itself to the Lagos Lagoon. Occasionally, in evenings, we would walk to the University, where he taught students remedial accounting classes. 

Boys swimming in lagoon (2019) by The Centenary ProjectThe Centenary Project

Decades earlier, our father
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Decades earlier, our father had gone to school here, for a few years, on a sponsorship from his employers at the broadcasting service. We did not talk about these memories, my brother and I. His interests lay in other places. 

Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún (2020-07-01) by Yẹ́misí Aríbisálà

But often, when the sun set
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But often, when the sun set and the warm evening air of the city washed over the silence in the house, my mind would often run through the many lifetimes through which the city had imposed itself through the reality of my existence.

Credits: Story

About Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún
Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún is a Nigerian writer and linguist, winner of the Premio Ostana Prize in 2016. He has worked as an editor, translator, lexicographer, and teacher, among others. He was, until recently, Chevening Research Fellow at the British Library in London, and later Programme Director at Yorùbá Academy in Ibadan, Nigeria. His first collection of poetry Edwardsville by Heart was published by Wisdom’s Bottom Press in 2018. His second, a translated collection of poems titled Ìgbà Èwe is forthcoming in July 2021. 

Explore more at g.co/ekoforshow 

Credits: All media
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