SOMETHING TO DO BY WILLIAM UKOH
It's been 8 years since I spent a summer in Nigeria, so I was a bit hesistant to make the trip. I had a couple projects I wanted to execute. 'Something to do' was not on that list
Everytime people living overseas visit Nigeria, there's a tendency to take pictures of people on the streets of Lagos. Pictures of hawkers, wheel barrow pushers and buses are some of the common ones you'd see.This time around, I just felt doing that would be typical and pointless. One fateful afternoon, while stuck in traffic, I noticed a street hawker selling Calculators. I thought to myself, "on a hot day like today, why on earth would you be out selling calculators". Then It dawned on me. He'd rather walk around in the hot sun cause there's a possibility he might sell one calculator, than sit at home doing nothing. Though you could say he should choose some other, more profitable, product, at the end of the day, it's Just Something to do. Ah!
From there, it was all about challenging myself to take portraits of locals in the area, craftsmen, sellers etc. I aimed to showcase a wide array of jobs people take on, regardless of how non-profitable it might seem. I always assumed that this would be easy, cause Nigerians are generally happy people. I was spectaculary wrong. Nigeria is in a state of paranoia at the moment. You point a camera at anyone without permission, and you just might get attacked. I didn't get attacked, but I was reported by a mallam whom I thought was just 'unlooking'. Some portraits were easier than others because my parents are frequent customers of these traders. Some took a lot of convincing, like the tailor.
All in all it was an experience I was thankful for. Getting out of my comfort zone, and convincing strangers to have their picture taken is not something I thought I was capable of.
'Something to do' speaks to the character of the citizens. With an almost non existent middle class, it could be so easy to look to crime as a resolve. But these people, and others out there choose to use their hands to make an honest living, no matter how little the income might be.
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE?
I believe Nigeria has the potential to be a great country. I also believe that potential will never be realized. I pray I'm wrong. Mediocrity is a way of life in the country. You get punished for trying to introduce some form of sanity. People are comfortably uncomfortable, so don't expect any action to be taken.