Beauty Beyond Filth in Makoko at Osh Gallery

Lekan Balogun

The Osh gallery, Lagos, on the 11th Sep, 2014 (sure you remember 9/11, and how fitting!), certainly makes the setting for the exhibition what it ought to be—realistic— considering the “subject” that confronted the audience from the pictures that Aderemi’s collection seemed to emphasize. George Lukacs remind us that artists who create, choose and organize material not out of pure subjectivity, but for certain obvious facts, which Remi’s pictures do underline in the selection and arrangement of his materials—a fact manifested in the work as objectivity; a fact manifested in the work as objective anarchy.

Objective anarchy, certainly, is the word that best describes Remi’s juxtaposition, or “cameraposition,” and/or even “photoposition” of Makoko[1] and the filth in the environment, the dirt and gutters, under the watchful eyes of the huge and imposing electricity power-line in the sky above, and the global icon–football–clutched romantically by the young lads, whose infectious laughter say so many things than words could possibly have, including the “reverend father” in white cassock as well as the “baby-mummy” with a child strapped to her back—all of the poor, yet, hope enveloped environs of the setting, together with its criss-cross of images of the young lads.

These pictures capture hope, resilience, faith and cheerful embrace of the kind of life providence has deemed for the occupants of Makoko—consider the fresh fish from the waters for example, never has a people been blessed not with canned food, but the gift of nature—nothing ever works better for a humanity than the virtues of hope and laughter in the midst of deficiency. The history of the world attests to human beings rising from the bottom to the highest zenith of their potential and greatness, but not when they are neglected, or under the threat of callous plans of demolition by mischievous, powerful, and conscienceless cabals. Consider China and Japan after the senseless and callous bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and marvel at how humanity can rise beyond death and poverty if leaders do their best rather than condemn their citizens to the dustbin of hopelessness as the government want us to believe of Makoko.

The pictures are not just of filth and dirt, though conspicuous at the background; but more importantly is the expression of the emotions of beauty and aesthetics—they are functional, organic, immediate to the psychological, emotional and intellectual needs of the human cognition, especially of those who appreciate the beauty in humanity, and, not of those who want to demolish and “colonize,” render homeless people who actually, and indeed, deserve to be cared for, that their own rank of ill-gotten wealth and praise-singers can have records to wax, as always.

Makoko may be full of gutters, filth and decay coupled with its raffia structures, delicately constructed atop the waters of the Lagos lagoon, nor can one forget the mosquitoes and the potholes on its streets lined by dirt; yet it is like anywhere else where mansions and tarred roads are a spectacle—there is life abundant; there is hope always and forever renewed; there is talent, raw and blossoming; and, all these, must be respected!

Will Nigerian politicians and successive “vampiric” governments, who cite ill-health, spread of diseases and crime in order to demolish so that Makoko can be “annexed” through “colonial penetration” to become part of their ill-gotten territories and financial colony, be reminded that these joy, laughter and hope can never be snuffed out? Maroko has remained a ghost, alive and well, in our memory. Wait a minute — Maroko/Makoko, perhaps there’s something so enticing about the “Ma,” the “roko” and the “koko” of the territories, who knows!

But it is hardly demolition that Makoko needs. Its revamp is located in helping the society to survive, to help the people confront the trials, which equally confront the society in its own quest to be a part of the larger Lagos and, of course, Nigerian society. Let no one bring up any blueprint of another Mr Bigg’s, Sweet Sensation or Shoprite, for we all know how such stories always ends, what the government’s idea of demolition and development means in the dictionary of the select few, who hold us all at the jugular; illegal acquisition by a cabal in the name of development is NOT what Makoko needs, but true intervention that will translate into better community for the inhabitants. It is high time we stopped making life miserable for others just to acquire wealth, supported by a manipulated constitution that serves only the rich at the expense of the poor and needy.

The subject of Remi’s photos — and theme that runs though them — is that of laughter and hope these young lads exude, which certainly surpass the filth and dirt; they show that in spite of anything else, they are a part of one humanity, one global humanity. How well, also, the way the gallery is transformed to give a sense of the ambience — the plank “5th Mainland bridge” and the improvised gutter, underneath the rails which held the pictures together, including, most certainly, the kokoro[2] snack and adoyo[3] drink; where else does one get treated to such unusual delicacy in the whole world than Makoko!

Those who live in filth and dirt, like the people of Makoko, are not actually the threat to society, but, those who lie, harass, and unscrupulously take advantage of the weak.

It is NEVER demolition, but COMPASSION, says the laughter, the hope and the innocence of these Makoko stars of tomorrow — what Remi also says with the photos!


1. Makoko is a heavily-populated, but tiny suburb around the coastal area of mainland, in Lagos, Nigeria. It has faced serious neglect from successive governments in the state, despite its strategic location around the lagoon.

2. A kind of tiny, sweet-tasting chip made from ground maize.

3. A local distilled juice drink made from millet.


Lekan Balogun is a PhD student at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

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One response to “Beauty Beyond Filth in Makoko at Osh Gallery

  1. Pingback: Issue 3 Spring/Summer 2015 | The Waggle Magazine

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