Life in Lagos reproduces art as squatters dispossessed for biennial exhibition

Exhibition theme, Living on the Edge, takes on new sense as artists and squatters at disused railway shed turfed out by state-owned railway company

When the organisers of Nigeria’s first biennial artwork expo announced it Living on the Edge, they could not have known how dreadfully apt the topic would be.

It was inspired by the squatters living in the carriages and buildings of a disused railway shed, and their equivalents across Lagos, where home is in short supply, and vast abundance and abject poverty exist side by side. Artists were invited” to investigate the realities of the losers in cultures around the world- the unseen majority who are pushed to the brink of their existence “.

The houses living in the old railway molted were surprised that anyone would want to host an exhibition in their run-down, leaky home, but got involved, digging excavations this is why it has not been able to flood, visualizing timber for the facilities and helping to clean up.

Artists
Artists and squats worked together to alter an old-fashioned railway molted into the site of Nigeria’s first biennial prowes show, called Living on the Edge. Image: Tom Saater for the Guardian

But in a bitter absurdity that shows the brutal gentrification taking place across the complex megacity, just as the establish opened last weekend the Nigerian Railway Corporation- the state-owned railing conglomerate- initiated to turf out many of the families.

The biennial’s organisers said they were dismayed.

” It’s called Living on the Edge, and then you precisely push them off the cliff ,” alleged Folakunle Oshun, the biennial’s founder and aesthetic administrator, who tried in vain to stop the evictions.

As masters and squats carried bowl weeds and strung up lightbulbs between rusting old study carriages at one extremity of the shed, at the other an old-fashioned duet stood bewildered among their strewn belongings, trying to multitude but with nowhere to move to.

Squatters
Squatters remove all their belongings from the part of the rail shed the selection board had called home for several years. Picture: Tom Saater for the Guardian

Abdul Raouf Akinwoye, a retired police officer who works with the Nigerian Railway Corporation and an architectural heritage organisation, Legacy, arrived with two” neighbourhood sons”- Lagos parlance for robbers- whom he had employed to enforce the eviction.

” They came from somewhere and they have to go back to where they came from ,” he enunciated, lending with no self-evident paradox:” We are asking them to go- in tandem with the theme of the exhibition .”

Akinwoye said that after a party organized by whisky firm Jameson’s in the shed 2 week before, some cables had been embezzled, and the community failed to return them when asked. They were living there illegally, and this was the last straw, he said.

Evictions are taking place all over the two countries, but in particular in Lagos, where tens of millions ofpeople have been chased out of their dwellings in the past year, purportedly for environmental and security grounds. Pundits say the real ground is to make way for indulgence housing developments. In Otodo Gbame, where millions of fishermen’s residences that stood on stilts above the high seas were razed, million tonnes sand have been dumped on top of the bulldozed wreckings, establishing more region ripe for development.

Space is at a premium in upmarket areas of the city. A proprietor can accuse $50,000( PS38, 000) a year for a flat- and can challenge that two years’ payment be paid upfront. And seat will only become more of an issue: Lagos is likely to be the world’s biggest municipality by 2100, experts predict, with its own population of 88 million.

It is not just the fact of forced eviction, but the brutal behaviour in which they are often carried out.

Akinwoye caught one of the squats, a 14 -year-old boy who was strolling past him, and forced him to kneel in front of him.” If I ever see you here again, I will snap you apart ,” he shouted.

Abdul
Abdul Raouf Akinwoye, a retired police officer who works with the Nigerian Railway Corporation, coerces a squatter to kneel in front of him. Meanwhile, on the other side of the teach vehicle, artists were putting up the performance of their duties. Image: Tom Saater for the Guardian

” We are working to sanitise this plaza ,” Akinwoye contributed, downing the litre of strawberry milk he had with him and then shedding the carton on the flooring. He had given the families two days to get out.

” Most of the women are irresponsible people. They hide offenders. You don’t know them; we are aware. Many of them sell medicines- cocaine and beer. You have sympathy for those people; they don’t deserve it. Those maidens are so devilish in their thoughts and playing .”

After the Guardian built research, the Nigerian Railway Corporation used to say those who had not yet been coerced out could stay for another two months- though the circumstances of the affected families will not have changed in that time.

Sitting by a batch of lumber that used to serve as his furniture, Idowu Akin Pelu, a retired head for the Nigerian Railway Corporation, pronounced none of their own families had money for hire or people who would take them in.

A
A tourist assess Fati Abubakar’s photography from north-east Nigeria, on display at the country’s firstly biennial skill expo Photograph: Tom Saater for the Guardian

” They remarked whoever failed to remove whatever belonged to him or her would be arrested and carted away to prison ,” he responded.” They read people of the world are seeing and they want to alter this home to their own standard. We don’t know where to go. We are in disarray .”

” They are stern. We are poor people. There is nothing like patho at all .”

Forcing parties out is not a strategy that will work in the long run, according to OluTimehin Adegbeye, a Nigerian writer and activist.

” Poor people don’t generally tend to disappear precisely because they’ve been deprived of everything the government had ,” she said in a recent Ted talk.

Folakunle
Folakunle Oshun, the artistic administrator of the biennial. Image: Tom Saater for the Guardian

Visitors to the biennial who learned what was happening on the other side of the molted were stunned. Nonetheless, most were unaware of the evictions taking place. Oshun tried to stop them, but as Legacy was not billing him to use the opening, he had little power.

Setting up a biennial in traffic-choked, expensive Lagos has not been easy. With no funding, artists were asked to pay their own space and Oshun, an creator and curator known for his meditations on jollof rice, did not know until weeks before the launch whether he would pull it off.

Wooden boxers with footballs for pates fought, representative of Nigerian people and their government battling fraud; the artist, Ayo Akinwande roped them off from a collection of decomposing reject. Puppies that had strolled in from the community living next door slumber between the tracks as David Palacios checked up on his dissected resound binders, full of statistics on violence.

Sunlight shone through pictures of women comprising candles put up in the empty openings of a wall, eerily illuminating them. Chickens pecked at the dirt, hopping into a berth of banana leaves below a clutch of luminous framed visualizes, all of which featured an orange peel. At the end of the running shed, young men played football.

” It actually takes bowels to do this without funding ,” announced Rahima Gambo, a visual reporter and documentary photographer who replenished a instruct car with greenery and school desks as part of a long-term projection looking at the impact of the Boko Haram insurgency in Maiduguri.

Read more: www.theguardian.com


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *