Tunde Mason, who you might remember from the TwentySix post, is a photographer I feel like I’ve been following forever. I’ve been honoured to watch his images evolve and his style become more defined as his artistry progresses. Which is why, when he asked me to put words to to a series of photographs he took on the last Boxing Day, I couldn’t not say yes. More than his fashion and beauty photography, I love the photographs he takes of the mundane, which is why I found these warm photographs of dusky Lagos very emotive and inspiring.
Here’s the project (each mini-story comes after its picture):
Heading home on a hazy Boxing Day evening after the most delightful lunch at Uche’s, I whip out my camera to capture some of the striking evening lights on Ikorodu Road. I looked at these people, these juxtapositions that I was fortunate to have end up in my frame and really craved to know each and every one of these people’s stories. Of course, I knew it wasn’t possible, given the fact that I was speeding past them all in a taxi cab. This limitation, contradictory as it may sound, inspired this mini project. I decided that they should have their own stories; a form of ‘staged reality’, as it were. So I got across to someone whose work I admire very much; ‘Pemi Aguda. She’ll take it from here.
…there are people who want to go to places that he can take them to while listening to their long phone conversations about irresponsible family members and that abusive boyfriend who showed up for dinner. Because everyone forgets the Taxi driver has ears, they let their real selves be seen. There is money to be made tonight. But it can all wait until after he communes with his Maker; it is hard to stay pure with all he hears.
…she is practising her speech. She hasn’t been home in six years, but she can’t avoid it now that her father is sick. Her mother had warned her about Lagos, about the men. How does she explain the little human going home with her? “Meet your grandson”? “Things happened…”? She is preparing her speech.
…where the rules leap at us from every corner. No U-Turn. No Smoking. Exit here. Turn off your phone. No, Lastma – I will not stop because your dithering green light decided to turn red. Where were your clean uniforms and epileptic lights when my father had to fight Baba Ajose physically to claim his land?
…the shadow of the valley of death follows him everywhere. He is sure of it. His sister got squashed by a truck’s container from the bridge above as she sat quietly in her car. His brother flew off the back of an okada and even his stubbornness couldn’t guarantee him a strong head when it met concrete. Darkness follows him everywhere. It is easy to live in darkness in Lagos.
…it is here you will confront the forced intimacy of public buses. You live alone. You have not touched a woman, that way, in twelve months but here is this woman, her bare arm is flush against yours; her thighs are almost in your laps. And you didn’t even have to ask permission.
…the city becomes a palette of dusky colours as night falls. It is the yellow of speeding cars coming towards you and the dull red glow of those leaving you behind. And the purple sky that insists that tomorrow will be the same.
…there are nights I want to keep riding to that line where the road meets the sky. But it is so far and I get tired. So, I go home and try again. I know there are answers there, like why we are born into specific roles. I don’t know what I’ll do when I have my answers but I have to get there first.
…she is going to a husband who will demand for dinner. She will kneel down on the rug she paid for and stretch out a tray she paid for, laden with the food she paid for, and made, after a long day. While he was home, sleeping. Because, women are the weaker sex, you know?
…at least it is honest work. They go and come, the same route, every day. The same people stopping the bus to collect their share of money. Some of the passengers even greet out of familiarity. The same amount of money. The same, the same. His brain is turning to mush, he doesn’t feel challenged. But it is honest work.
…all your generators and noise and cigarette smoke have risen above us to form a false grey sky. And so, instead, the stars have come down to us tonight.
I always thought yellow was a wonderful gay colour, then I moved to Lagos.