Conjuring Lagos to Write

Nigerian writer Sarah Ládípọ̀ Manyika shares her personal reflection of Lagos.

By Google Arts & Culture

Future style icons (2019) by Stephen TayoOriginal Source: Homecoming Festival

As a child, I remember spending hours
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As a child, I remember spending hours trying to climb three ancient, coconut trees at the back of our house in Yaba. They were mean, prickly things, but I knew that if I ever got to the top, I would see the lagoon.

Modern view of LagosThe Centenary Project

I remember nights lying awake in bed
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I remember nights lying awake in bed, listening to the sound of masquerade dancers. I was terrified yet in awe of Egúngún masks and twirling robes.

Photograph by Yagazie EmeziHomecoming

I remember morning walks to Corona School
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I remember morning walks to Corona School, attempting to hide behind my mother’s skirt away from the kids who teased me with: Oyinbo pepe, if you eat pepe, you go yellow more more …

Sisters (2019) by Stephen TayoOriginal Source: Homecoming Festival

I remember leaving Lagos at the age of six
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I remember leaving Lagos at the age of six and feeling proud to say I came from the nation’s capital until I learned that men were tied to oil drums and executed on Bar Beach. One was the father of my new best friend.

Street musician (2019) by Stephen TayoOriginal Source: Homecoming Festival

I remember returning regularly to Lagos and noticing
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I remember returning regularly to Lagos and noticing that with each visit it grew bigger, more congested with traffic and people, and that stories of the city seemed to expand at the same exponential rate—everything was always more crazy, more splendid, more exaggerated in Lagos. I felt exhilaration when returning. I felt relieved when leaving in one piece.

Vlisco & Co by Yagazie EmeziHomecoming

It has been decades since I lived in Lagos
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It has been decades since I lived in Lagos, but that childhood sense of wonder, exasperation, and feeling always slightly out of place, stays with me and fuels my desire to write. Over the years, my sense of Lagos has expanded to include Lagosians that I meet in every corner of the world, from Peckham, South London, to San Francisco, California.

Sarah Ladipo Manyika (2020-07-01) by Yẹ́misí Aríbisálà

Whenever I’m somewhere too quiet
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Whenever I’m somewhere too quiet, too orderly and with too few colors, too little music, too bland food, I conjure Lagos and start to write.

Credits: Story

About Sarah Ládípọ̀ Manyika 
Sarah Ladipo Manyika is a novelist, author of In Dependence (2008) and Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun (2016), which was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize and the California Book Awards. Her nonfiction includes personal essays and intimate profiles of people she meets from Toni Morrison and Michelle Obama to Pastor Evan Mawarire. Sarah serves on the Board of the women’s writing residency, Hedgebrook, and is currently a juror for the 2020 Goldsmiths Prize and the 2021 Aspen Literary prize and is host of the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) Conversations Across the Diaspora series. She was the Founding Books Editor for ozy.com, and juror for the California Book Awards as well as Patron for the Pan-African Etisalat Prize for Literature. Her works have been translated into six languages. She has lived in Kenya, France, Zimbabwe, and England.


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