Aug 28, 2008

The Messiah Mentality...

" And so it came to pass, in the 40th year after Martin Luther, son of King, was martyred, Barack, son of Obama, went up to the mile-high city and was anointed flag bearer for the Democratic party, being the first African American to be so anointed. Yea, the gathering was greatly moved, and the hall was filled with joy and roar of the multitude that witnessed his anointment.”
The Book of Days 8:29

Many have commented on the religious fervor surrounding the Obama campaign. Watching the Democratic nomination from Lagos Nigeria, I was once again struck by the palpable emotions of the crowd at the Denver democratic nomination convention venue, which to me had all the elements of a good-old fashioned evangelical revival meeting. It has wrongly been suggested that Obama portrays himself as a latter-day messiah and his political opponents, stumped by the obvious adulation he receives everywhere, have tried to use his popularity against him. In fact, the reporting on Obama verges on the liturgical, which is why this post is preceded by the quasi-biblical passage above. I should state upfront that I am not aware of any holy book named “the book of days” but if there is one, I apologize for the fake reference. The text is entirely my own and it satirizes the reporting on Obama I have seen in some major newspapers.

For the record, I am not involved in the active politics of American elections. Obama’s candidacy is important to me for what it says about an emerging global order, in which parochial white supremacy is confronted with the changing color and ethnicity of the global population. I am tracking closely the politics of representation in the public reception of Obama’s candidacy and how being black in America is often presented as an indelible marker of difference. Of course Obama is black, but he is also white. In representing him solely as a “black” American, the public reception of his candidacy does grave injustice to him but also highlights the dubious socio-political constructs that sustain white supremacy in a multicultural country. The great thing about the USA is that all the human bloodlines meet here for the first time since human beings left Africa to populate the world. The misguided criticism of Obama as an exotic candidate who doesn’t look “American” or like the “boy next door” is very wrong. Obama is what true America looks like, a racial identity forged in a multiracial heritage. He is in fact the very essence of the boy next door if you place the USA within the racial context of global politics where whiteness is a minority ethnic and racial identity.

Obama has already made history by being the first African American candidate to lead a major American political party into the general elections. His political opponents savaged him en route to this historic event but he survived and in doing so, proved to be a wily competitor and master politician. The uniqueness of his ascendancy is one of the reasons why he is received with what seems like religious fervor. Obama carries the weight of American longing to engage its history of racial oppression and he promises the nation a process of reconciliation devoid of acidic recriminations. He has no choice but to do this: the mere fact of contemplating an African American occupant of the “White House” has some diehard racists apoplectic. Both those who criticize his “blackness” and those who consider him not black enough miss the mark. Obama has refused to let anyone lock him into a simplistic ethnic identification that limits his opportunities in the American political order. African Americans are limited precisely because their ethic identity is used against them as a binding obstacle. Whiteness confers obvious economic advantages in the global order of Western power and by defining black people outside of this ethnic and social identity the system ensures they can never claim any of the privileges or advantages deriving from whiteness. This poisonous political structure says nothing useful about racial identity—over 60% of white Americans have a multiracial heritage and almost all African Americans have white ancestry; it merely uses racial politics to ensure the advantage of a powerful political minority. In the history of the USA, many biracial African Americans have gone to court to contest their identification as “black”. Obama has succeeded in transcending this issue by the obvious fact of his multiracial identity while choosing to ethnically and politically define his causes as multicultural. His nomination to the democratic leadership is evidence of an astute management of charisma of the sort no one has seen in American politics since Bill Clinton, who subverted his whiteness enough to become identified as the “first black president” of the USA. This was mere supposition though: if elected, Obama will become the real first Black president of the USA. He will also be its first biracial president and first truly global president among many other firsts.

The groundbreaking nature of Obama’s candidacy is the main reason why many receive him with religious fervor. Most of America is literally projecting deep-seated anxieties on this man and looking to him for leadership. From his trip to Europe, it appears that many in the global context are also looking to him for some new form of leadership to right America’s faltering power in the world. During the primary campaign, I sometimes watched painfully as Obama appeared to buy into the Messiah mentality of this global adulation, worrying that the man was starting to believe in his own invincibility (to drink his own kool-aid as Americans say). But then, his opponents always cut him down to size as another crises emerges to be handled, from former pastors skirting close to lunacy to carelessly spoken words publicized by bottom-feeding, scoop-seeking “reporters”. Obama rode these controversies like a surfer, sometimes expertly cutting the waves, at other times, drowning in them. But he proved capable, and is now standing as the first African American leader of a major American political party. There is still the struggle of the general election against an implacable foe with demonstrated mastery of demagoguery. Hope says Obama will survive this too and win the general election. But as every reporter has surmised in recent times, the USA has to prove that it is ready to elect a black man to the White House. Will the candidate’s obvious mastery of politics, his charisma and personal achievements be enough to get over this last hump, or will the country pull back from this historic moment and elect another old white man to the white house. We’ll know soon enough. In the meantime, one hopes the candidate will continue to tamp down the messiah mentality of his supporters without draining their immense enthusiasm. Too often, (and I’m no longer sure where I first heard this statement), every time someone is proclaimed a messiah, sooner or later people will nail him to a tree to prove the claim.

I personally think that Obama’s charisma and devotion to change is not evidence of a messiah mentality: the candidate who emerged yesterday to claim the nomination of the Democratic Party is a very different person from the cocky young man who began the race for the nomination over one year ago. He has been tested and has grown immensely. It is not his fault that people are projecting their desires on him, and he should not be criticized for it: great leaders are often projections of the desires of their constituencies; the greatest actualize practical aspects of those desires and move society forward at the same time. Obama’s candidacy has black people psyched across the globe and especially in Africa where many hope the mere fact of an American president with living relatives in Kenya will cause a change in the Western exploitation of Africa. I am not holding my breath in this regard even though I hope the candidate’s talk of sensitivity towards the suffering of others will cause him to push for revisions to the marginalization of Africa in the global order. For five centuries, Africa was systematically deprived of her best in human and natural resources to fuel the emergence and growth of the Western ascendancy. At the same time, Africa was denied any credit for her contributions to this global order and to the human story in general. The continent however gave birth to the human race and sent humans out to populate the far reaches of the earth. When you come right down to it, every human being is of African ancestry. The attempt to limit Africans to the margins of the global order is thus one of the great evils of the last five hundred years. Obama provides hope to Africa that its contributions to the human story will be reevaluated and appreciated. Far from being an exotic specimen of humanity, he stands at the crossroads of history at a point in time where the diverse bloodlines of Africa’s children meet once again. It is a great story and Obama has always said that it is only in America that his story is remotely possible. But this story is yet unfinished; he still has a ways to go. This writer certainly wishes him well as he continues on his path.

Aug 24, 2008

Ben Osawe Retrospective at Quintessence

Quintessence Gallery Lagos recently hosted an exhibition of artworks by the late Nigerian artist, Ben Osawe. Quintessence, a major fixture on the Lagos art scene, provided an interesting backdrop for exhibiting an artist whose devotion to formalist abstract sculptures made him an oddity in modern Nigerian art and left him struggling for professional and economic recognition. Death has a way of enhancing the value of any artist and Osawe, one of the true masters of 20th century modern Nigerian art, now has his apotheosis in the astronomical rise in prices of his artworks. Sculptures in this exhibition are priced above five million Naira (about $50,000) and from the plethora of red markers on the labels, the exhibition was already sold out. A rough calculation of tagged artworks suggested the small but topical show cleared well over six figures (dollars) in sales. Since Osawe is obviously not around to enjoy the rising prices and increased recognition afforded his works at the Quintessence exhibition, it is difficult not to define the post-mortem validation of the artist as a cynical exploitation of his legacy. However, it is his legacy and rise in prices of Osawe's artworks fit nicely into the explosive growth in the Nigerian art market, which is enjoying halcyon days like other sectors of the Nigerian economy (click here for a review of the exhibition)

Ben Osawe is one of the most underrated and misunderstood modern Nigerian artists but also one of its greatest. His death makes more urgent the need to document the life and works of major modern Nigerian artists who contributed unique impulses to the search for a modernist idiom in African art in the 20th century. Right now in Lagos,a firestorm is brewing over the authentication of Osawe's artworks and it appears that several types of Osawe "originals" are circulating in Lagos. Since there is no catalog raisonne or established chronology of his sculpture practice, various modes of authentication are emerging to fill the vacuum. I will not be surprised if some eager collectors shelling out good money for Osawe's works find themselves saddled with less than original copies.
That said, any gallery that directs attention to a deserving artist like Osawe deserves commendation. Quintessence has maintained a solid position atop the hierarchy of the Nigerian art market and it is a major stop for many locals and visiting expatriates.

Aug 22, 2008

Le Parisian, Ikeja Lagos

Le Parisian Hotel Lagos is a newly opened boutique hotel situated off Opebi Road in Ikeja, in the heart of Lagos Mainland high-end shopping arena. The Opebi Road, Allen Avenue and Toyin Street axis in Ikeja is a hip hangout of area cool since the early 1980s. It remains an interesting part of town and one of the busiest commercial sectors of Lagos. You can find a lot to do here including shopping in the many specialty stores dealing in fashion, boutiques, banking services, specialty dining and entertainment.

Le Parisian
is managed by Class Hospitality Services Limited along with a couple of other successful hotels in the same area. It's rather stern facade hides a thoroughly opulent interior quite decent for prices ranging from $180 to $400 per night. The interior decoration scheme is Neo-Plasticist and was put together by someone with experience of modernist style; each room with its own color focus. I also found some facsimile of artworks by noted sculptor El Anatsui produced by someone who spent a lot of time replicating the artist's style. I will discuss these "artworks" in a different post since they raise major questions of appropriation and plagiarism. As with many projects in Nigeria, someone spent a lot of money and not always to ideal ends: lots of marble everywhere, which in Lagos signifies high taste. Some of the marble decoration work well and some don't. The plethora of mix and match (marble, opulent fabrics, etc) are somewhat overwhelming but a welcome change from the neutral decor of many other hotels I've seen in Lagos.

Given the nature of contemporary research, my main criteria for checking into a hotel is whether it has good internet access. Improvements in IT resources means that internet access has been improving in Lagos over the past couple of years. Le Parisian has decent internet access and very good security. The staff is responsive and eager to assist guests with all inquiries. This hotel has a slight problem though: a church community is setting up next door and they run some fairly loud night services. Ask for a room on the East wing of the hotel on the top floor. The hotel currently has no website but they are working on it (update Feb 12, 2009: the hotel has since installed a website). Pictures below, from top: View of Le Parisian Hotel and two views of its Reception area.



Lagos Hotels

The rapid growth of hotels and guest accommodations is one of the best signs of Lagos emergence as a global crossroads. It is not unusual for flights from Europe to Lagos to be half-filled with non-Africans traveling in for business. Most of these individuals represent corporations with deep pockets who sometimes book long-term accommodations for them in the major hotel chains in the country. There is thus a scarcity in Lagos hotel accommodation and many new enterprises are emerging to fill this need. Aside from old stalwarts like the Sheraton Lagos (favorite stop of incoming expatriates, and by the way, an outrageously expensive hotel), there are new world-class hotels being built near the Lagos Murtala Mohammed International airport (I hear it's a Hilton) and in Victoria Island. Boutique hotels like Protea and Sofitel have Lagos branches and are building more hotels in other parts of Nigeria.

In addition to the top international chains, there are lots of locally owned and operated hotels everywhere in Lagos. I stayed in some of these hotels mainly in Ikeja where prices run from $100 to $700 per night depending on one's inclination. Abuja is of course chock full of world-class hotels and in my travels to Eastern Nigeria, I found other small scale but excellent hotels which shows that the emerging hotel market is not limited to Lagos. For the rest of the trip, I will post periodic comments on these hotels I've stayed in as a guide to anyone planning a trip to Lagos.

Aug 21, 2008

Center for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC)

One sure sign of Nigeria's current economic revival is the amount of resources allocated to managing its impressive cultural heritage. Although such allocations are still minuscule in the overall scale of the country's economy, the fact of their comparative increase is cause for hope. Because the government is directing resources towards enhancing cultural management, some notable cultural sector institutions have survived the economic doldrums of the late 20th century and are currently expanding their scope.

The Center for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC) is one such survivor. "(CBAAC) was established in 1979 following the epoch-making hosting of the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC '77) in Nigeria. The Center houses all the materials which constitute the core collections, artifacts, and rare cultural items that were used during FESTAC '77. The decision to handover these materials to Nigeria was meant to reinforce and build upon the gains of the historic festival. It was in fact in fulfillment of Nigeria 's pledge to keep the materials in trust for the 59 Black and African countries and communities that participated in the Festival that gave impetus for the establishment of the Center. To achieve its set goals, CBAAC holds seminars, workshops, public lectures, exhibitions and symposia. It also engages in other activities that project the overall image of Black and African Peoples and enable African cultures to be appreciated globally. Through its numerous programs, CBAAC contribute significantly to the pool of universal knowledge on Black and African Peoples".

Under its current Director General, Prof. Tunde Babawale, CBAAC maintains an ambitious program of international conferences, symposia, workshops, collaborative and educational programming from its headquarters in the historic National Theater pavilion. Due to public outcry from the nation in general, the Federal Government of Nigeria revoked an earlier plan of the previous administration to sell the Festac pavilion to foreign corporate interests. I think this is in the overall benefit of Nigeria since it is necessary to secure some aspects of its history for the national trust. CBAAC benefits from its location in this edifice and the government would be wise to allocate important funds towards a full-scale rehab of the FESTAC pavilion. Both the building and CBAAC are major points of pride in Nigeria's outreach to the global African diaspora.

Cycles...

Been a while since my last update, internet access outside Lagos being much less amenable than I originally thought. The last ten days included my birthday and tragically, the death and burial of my youngest brother whose sudden demise affected everyone in my family very strongly. It is true this trip has been full of surprises.

The combination of birthdays and death has me thinking of old friends I haven't heard from in donkey years. I'm putting their names here in the hope that my desire to see or hear from them is aided by six degrees of separation. So, Arthur Mazeli (Outamagregoli), Abba Beata Warzewska, Fidelis Mukolu and Amaka Onuigbo...hope you are still out there and all is well with you.

Aug 9, 2008

Two Workshops on Nollywood

My friend and colleague, Jonathan Haynes, a major scholar on Nollywood, the Nigerian Film industry, sent in this report of his trip to Lagos to attend important discussions on the state and direction of the industry. I first met Jonathan Haynes when he was a Fulbright Scholar to the University of Nigeria Nsukka in the early 1990s, while I was a graduate student in Art History at the institution. We've kept in touch since then especially where our scholarly endeavors converge, such as our joint focus on Nollywood, he through his foundational book on the subject (authored with Onookome Okome) and I through my work with the Nollywood Foundation.
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TWO WORKSHOPS ON NOLLYWOOD
By Prof. Jonathan Haynes
Long Island University, New York
August 8, 2008


The Nigerian video film industry has grown to its present enormous size as a grassroots phenomenon springing from the West African culture of small or medium-scale production and trading, sharing some of the characteristics of the informal sector. At this point, however, it has the full attention of formal sector institutions, from the Nigerian government to banks and other wealthy potential investors, large media organizations, the cultural wings of foreign governments, foundations and other NGOs, as well as of media professionals and academics from Nigerian and foreign universities. The result has been a proliferation of workshops and conferences dedicated to Nollywood. On a recent trip to Nigeria, I had the opportunity to take part in two such events.

The first was Nollywood: Challenges of Production, Entertainment Value and International Marketing Strategies, held at the Centre for Media and Communication (CMC) of Pan-African University (PAU) in Lagos on July 18 and 19, 2008. PAU is a sister institution of the Lagos Business School and prides itself on its business-like environment. The CMC has been offering a Certificate in Media Enterprise and, its director Emevwo Biakolo was able to announce at the opening of the workshop, it had just been given authorization to begin a master’s program.

The presenters and presentations were as follows:
Prof. Hyginus Ekwuazi, University of Ibadan, “Nollywood: The Audience as Merchandise”
Prof. Harry Garuba, University of Cape Town (South Africa), “Marketing Nollywood in South Africa—Some Reflections”
Prof. Onookome Okome, University of Alberta (Canada), “Nollywood and Government”
Prof. Jonathan Haynes, Long Island University (United States) “On Location: Settings and Soundtracks”
Ikechukwu Obiaya, PAU, “Selling Entertainment and Values: The Nollywood Dilemma”
Femi Odugbemi, Chief Executive of DVWORX Studios, “Challenges of the Nigerian Film Industry”
Prof. Abdalla Uba Adamu, Bayero University-Kano (represented by Jonathan Haynes), “North of Nollywood, South of the Sahara: Cultural Dynamics in the Marketing of Hausa Video Films”
Prof. Onookome Okome, “Marketing Nollywood Abroad: The Role of the Internet and Public Broadcasting”

The line-up of presenters was heavily-weighted towards academics, the exception being Femi Odugbemi, the writer, producer, director, and former president of the Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria (ITPAN), who gave a particularly vibrant presentation. Some twenty participants paid the relatively stiff registration fee, many of them sponsored by their organizations. The discussions were very lively. Two of the main topics were how to improve the quality of Nollywood films and (a related issue) their international export dimension. Some of the most active and useful participants included the filmmaker Obafemi Lasode of DAAR Communications; Kenny Oshodi, a veteran filmmaker and producer recently returned to Nigeria after making a career in Hollywood; the Eco Bank officer in charge of “Project Nollywood,” the bank’s trial investment in four films by a consortium of leading Nollywood directors, who gave a report on this still-inconclusive experiment; and the Deputy Director of the National Films and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), who reported on the progress of the new framework for distribution that has been passed into law and is being instituted by the NFVCB. He told me he was going directly from the workshop to talk to the police about arresting non-complying marketers, and arrests did in fact follow during the following week.

The second event was called West African Filmmakers Dialogue, held at Terra Kulture Restaurant in Victoria Island, Lagos, on July 24, sponsored by two major American organizations, the American Film Institute and the Ford Foundation, and the Lagos-based NGO Communicating for Change. Sandra Obiago of CFC and Dr. Margie Reese, the Ford Foundation Program Officer for Media, Arts and Culture, hosted the event. Two high-powered Americans had been brought in as speakers: Henry Moran, Executive Director of the President’s Committee on Arts and the Humanities, who, it was explained to us, is the American equivalent of a minister of culture; and Rose Kuo, Artistic Director of the American Film Institute’s major film festival, AFI Fest. Rose Kuo was collecting submissions (through Sandy Obiago) for her film festival, and Margie Reese repeatedly challenged the assembled participants to make proposals the Ford Foundation could fund, relating either to production or distribution.

The invited participants were a varied and interesting lot, including (in no particular order) Liberian documentary filmmaker Siata Scott-Johnson, Ghanaian actor, editor and director George Arcton-Tetty, Sierra Leonean filmmaker and lawyer Sam Kargho, distributor and filmmaker Donatus Chikezie, film and theater director Awoba Bob Manuel, actress Joke Silva, actor, director and producer Kunle Afolayan, editor Jahman Anikulapo of The Guardian, investment banker Babi Subair, Bunmi Ayo of Terra Kulture, cameraman and photographer Fred Utomakili, director and graphic designer Lanre Lawal, producer Victor Okhai, producer Madu Chikwendu, actor Segun Arinze, director Mellamby Ileogben, and producer Kingsley Ogoro.

The problem with the occasion is that there was not enough opportunity for real dialog. This was partly because the occasion was not long enough (which is of course preferable to occasions that go on too long), and partly because too much time was taken up by the invited speakers, who—in the manner of American government-sponsored speakers—convincingly demonstrated their personal intelligence and importance but had not done their homework adequately, so they were ill-equipped to address the people in the room with them. This was particularly striking in the case of Henry Moran, whose presence indicated the importance the American government now accords to Nollywood, but who had little useful to say. Rose Kuo, a trained filmmaker and seasoned festival programmer who has intimate knowledge of the American independent film movement and of trends in international cinema from China to Latin America, managed to make a number of acute and suggestive comments.

Both of these occasions demonstrated the depth and breadth of interest by outside parties in the Nigerian film industry, and the interest of at least some within it of exploring the opportunities that are opening up. This is a moment of real crisis in the industry, as the NFVCB has in effect declared war on the Idumota and Alaba marketers who have controlled Nollywood thus far, threatening to put them out of business if they do not conform to a new business model that features orderly business records, formal addresses, and relationships with accountants and lawyers. We will see how this confrontation turns out. The marketers are of course bitterly opposed to these changes, and some observers are skeptical of the government’s ability to build a system that works and feel it is unfair for the government to destroy a system that was created without its aid. But most of the filmmakers I spoke with were in favor, feeling the industry has reached an impasse and cannot move forward without fundamental restructuring. The mess is so big only government can straighten it out, is how Amaka Igwe put it. If the new system takes hold, plenty of capital and expertise are waiting in the wings, ready to move into the industry when conditions meet formal-sector standards, though there will doubtless be plenty of bumps along the road.

Photo: West African Filmmakers Dialogue. Clockwise from left, Sandra Obiago, Margie Reese, Rose Kuo, Henry Moran, George Arcton-Tetty. © Jonathan Haynes.

Aug 8, 2008

Art Institute of Chicago Distances Itself from James Cuno's Book

Guest Blogger Kwame Opoku sent in news of this interesting development in the ongoing refutation of James Cuno's thesis on ownership of looted antiquities (Cuno basically suggests that African nations and other original producers of artworks forcibly removed to Western museums have no greater legitimate claim to these artworks than the Western countries where they currently reside, mostly as a direct result of colonial brigandage). Apparently, the Art Institute of Chicago, where James Cuno serves as Director, is distancing itself from the opinions set forth in Cuno's book. The AIC points out that Cuno's opinions do not represent those of the Art Institute of Chicago. However, it is difficult to see how one can separate he opinions of the errant director and the institution he heads. As long as Cuno remains the director of the AIC, the institution will be associated with Cuno's views even if unfairly. I predict that we have not heard the last of this issue.

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THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO DISTANCES ITSELF FROM THE CONTROVERSIAL BOOK OF ITS DIRECTOR, JAMES CUNO, WHO OWNS ANTIQUITY?
Kwame Opoku

Finally, the Art Institute of Chicago has reached the conclusion which others have reached long time ago, that the position and the views Cuno and his followers have been propagating over a long period, are not conducive to good and friendly relations. The view that the strong can take the artefacts of the weak and keep them has never been morally acceptable, no matter what James Cuno, Director, Art, Institute of Chicago, Neil Macgregor, Director British Museum, or Phillipe de Montebello, Director, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, may say to the contrary. That there has been so far no strong resistance to the activities of the Western museums should not be taken as evidence that they are on the right path... (read the full article here)

Aug 3, 2008

The Junkman At Large

My Nsukka art-school classmate, Humphrey Umezulike, aka Dilomprizulike, aka The Junkman from Africa, has been busy with various performance art pieces over the past year. I tracked him in New York doing one such piece last year and he will be participating in the upcoming 3rd Guangzhou Triennial. The Junkman's interrogation of urban detritus is an increasingly sophisticated response to the obverse of globalization's allure, its ever-expanding legacy of industrial and consumerist waste. Unlike most artists with an apocalyptic vision, The Junkman seems to seems to predict that social order is at risk not from some vast technological mishap (say a nuclear mushroom cloud) but that we simply risk being undone by waste. An organism dies when it can no longer separate itself from its own waste. The Junkman confronts polite society with the messy fact of its reliance on profligate wastage. His work is increasingly topical and accomplished.

Pictures below show The Junkman (dressed in uniform with a construction worker helmet) performing a signature piece titled "Who wan Visa" which comments on the hellish experience of applying for an American visa in various African countries especially in Nigeria. Picture credit: The Junkman


Aug 1, 2008

O City City...(Apologies T.S. ELiot)

Lagos in August, in full deluge of the rainy season. I haven't been in the city during the rainy season for a very long time and quite forgot its impact on local life in general. A tropical thunderstorm breaks like the fury of Sango, the Yoruba thunder god: buckets of water cascade from the skies, gouge out inch deep scoops in the soil and set up a heavy clatter on the ubiquitous zinc roof of the city. Heavy storms of this kind are fast moving and usually burn out quickly. It' the regular light rain you have to watch out for: those simply go on and on for days on end.

The defining marker of Lagos (or Eko as it is called by almost everyone) is its bad roads and during the rains, many parts of the city flood out. Run off water turn many roads into low-range lakes, most hiding potholes large enough to swallow a small car (see the picture above and others online at Don's Public Gallery). Since the city itself sits at sea level, the water just pools above ground for considerable periods of time. The massive force of floods occasioned by rain water is a fact of life here, pretty much like the annual flooding of the Piazza San Marco in Venice. Unlike Venice however, you don't find gondolas riding on Lagos surface water. Instead, you find Lagosians wading through flood to get to their destinations. If you know the city well enough, you learn to respect the tenacity of its inhabitants, to marvel at their ability to weather (no pun intended) the capricious rains and even more capricious geography of their daily lives. But this is Eko after all, and there is no city quite like it on the face of the earth. In all the cities I've ever visited on several continents, most proffer greetings to arriving visitors (Welcome to London, Wilkommen aus Berlin, Bienvenue a Paris, etc): the arriving visitor to Lagos is simply informed that "This is Lagos". Really, you are on your own.

The best strategy for Lagos rain is to simply sit it out. This is easier said than done: though the rain clogs up traffic and generally makes movement difficult, people have to get to work and get about their daily lives. Most will keep moving unless there is a storm. After all, time waits for no one (another popular Lagos aphorism). I once sat through a four-day rainstorm in Lagos and learned patience the hard way. August is the main rainy season here and this one looks like it might be serious (the weather prediction calls for rain and more rain for the entire week). I appear to have lost the skill of sleeping through a rainstorm and must learn this again. The sound of rain on roofs has its own rhythm and you can usually tell what kind of rain is falling by listening to this. It's been raining here since last night but no matter. I am at home and the sound of rain is welcoming. O City City....