Lagos Through My Lens & Words #BlackHistoryMonth

Lagos, Nigeria
Almost a year later and I’m finally getting round to putting pen to paper as it were, to my fairly disjointed thoughts about my trip to Lagos last December. My extended family, from across The UK and America all flew into Murtala Mohammed airport in Lagos for our Grandmothers 80th birthday party. We arrived at 7pm, the air thick and heavy, with a heat that I found both welcoming and slightly suffocating. The passport check lines went quickly, with shouts of "Oga move now!", and a smile crept upon my face, thinking of how impatient we Nigerians love to be. We finally made it out of the airport thoroughly soaked in sweat due to bad wardrobe choices, with our luggage being swiftly pushed towards my aunts cars, winding our way through the busy Lagos night, twisting and turning from touts and street sellers with the enticing scent of suya wafting in the air, making my mouth water. The dizzying hum of mosquitoes mixed with the sounds of pidgin English flying through the night brought me back down to earth again. We were back in the motherland. 
The next morning I awoke in Lekki, with a mug of instant coffee in my hands and my eyes fixed on the vast wealth of untouched green about 20 metres away from the balcony on which I was standing, I breathed in the warm morning air and sighed at the burnt yellow and pale pink African sunrise, feeling a type of joy in my soul that I would not be able to put my finger on until my return to London two weeks later. After breakfast we headed to my Grandmothers house in Ikeja, on the car ride there, my face was pressed to the glass of the car window like an excited child, my eyes were bright orbs of maroon, hungrily taking in everything that was on the other side of the glass. Blithe, bitter coffee toned women, expertly balancing round trays of Agégé bread on their heads, Men in jalabiyas weaving in and out of traffic, selling everything from sweets and snacks to sandals and magazines. We zoomed past Aunties with colourful Ankara wrappers tied around their waists laughing loudly with their friends whilst roasting plantain on the street side, we passed places with names that rolled softly off of my tongue, longingly. 
My Grandmother, Stella Bamgbose. The Matriarch, The Prophetess, Mama Dayó as she’s affectionately called, welcomed us dressed in cerulean blue, smelling of a Dolce & Gabanna perfume that was familiar. She felt smaller and softer than ever before, her grey eyes less focused but her body still waxing strong. With the family photo shoot finished, we all sat in the compound, a collective buzz of Yoruba and English with a sprinkling of raucous laughter and the odd ‘AYYYYYYY!’ Thrown in for good measure.  
After a few days in Lagos, I started to wonder where home was for me. Was it here under the blazing African sun, a glass bottle of coke pressed to my lips, gazing at the coconut trees lines in my grandmothers compound? Was it back in London, a coffee in hand, sat looking out onto the rainy streets of Soho? I wasn’t sure anymore. I had previously been hell-bent on forever living out my parent's British dream in the United Kingdom, settling down here, a successful job, marriage, kids, being able to support my parents, the works. But the warmth I felt in Nigeria planted a seed in my heart that I found I would not be able to shake. One of the things that stuck with me about Lagos was that it simply did not seem to sleep. People were sharp, always on the lookout for opportunities, jobs, connections, it felt almost like a more familiar London in its constant buzz, but there was intense warmth and familiarity about it. For the first time, in all the times I'd been here, this was the first time that it felt somewhat like home.
We went full tourist mode in Lagos, from spending New Year’s Day on the beach drinking Hennessy whilst dipping our toes in the sea, to visiting The Nike Art Gallery, to buying too many basket bags and beautiful handmade artisan jewellery in Lekki Market, to eating five (yes five) scoops of agbalumó sorbet (I am OBSESSED with it). We also spent a great deal of time eating our way through the days, from chicken suyá, poundo, and seafood okra, puff puff, mosa (my fave), fresh agbalumó, oranges, coconuts, streetside roasted plantain with groundnut, and so many more delicacies. It felt like I was experiencing Nigeria from a different lens, but through my rose-tinted glasses, I also saw how incredibly privileged myself and my extended friends and family in Nigeria are. Poverty runs rampant in Nigeria, and myself and Emmy spent a good amount of time lamenting the issues of inequality and the difficulties facing everyday citizens in Nigeria.  

My cousin who is now living in Nigeria with her husband and her two beautiful daughters asked me “Could you come and live in Lagos?”, and I thought about it and thought about it. And I couldn’t answer. She laughed and said “You know visiting during Christmas and New Year is different to actually living here” and I understood what she meant completely. As a British born Nigerian, it opened my eyes to the privileges I have. I could fly into Nigeria during the ‘fun festive seasons’, play tourist for a while, sit on white sandy beaches with a cocktail in one hand and a plate of Jollof and grilled chicken in the other, fairly oblivious to what was *really* happening in Nigeria, and then I would fly back to the UK, go back to my comfortable well paid job and comment on Nigeria’s affairs within the safety of my little London bubble. A lot of the time I have to check myself in regards to the way I speak about Nigeria, sometimes I find myself slipping into a saviour mode, wanting to ‘save’ the downtrodden and poor like some sort of bizarre Nigerian Mother Theresa, scooping up kids in my arms by the three and promising them a better life. I asked one of my uncles living in Nigeria what my generation could do to make a difference, and he told me “Come back to Nigeria. Once you have those skills, come back...” and my heart sunk a little. As a British Born Nigerian, the disparity and differences between the two worlds are so great that often I feel stuck in the middle. I feel both at home and alien in the UK, and I feel both at home and alien in Nigeria, in both places as a black woman, I have to make myself smaller, fit into the prerequisite box. 
One thing I will note about my visit back home is that each time I go to Nigeria and I’m surrounded with my family and loved ones in an environment where I don’t have to deal with the race aspect of the micro-aggressions I face being both black and a woman, is.... so calming. Of course, we have serious issues with sexism in Nigeria, but in the UK I suffer from both of the ‘isms’  hand in hand. So where does that leave me, dear reader? I’m not sure, I suppose I’ll have to revisit this post when I go to Nigeria next year. Will I be in London or Lagos in the future? 

We make plans and the universe laughs at us. 



  1. wow this photographs are truely amazing! Seems like you had an amazing time! :)

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  2. Sade, this post!! As always it was written beautifully. As an immigrant who has lived half of her life in Nigeria and the other half in the uk, I can relate to sometimes feeling both at home and alien.
    Reading this post has made me even more excited for my trip in December!

    Steph x

  3. This is so beautifully written. I left like I was back in Lekki with my parents. Is it possible to get nostalgia from reading someone else's words? If so that just happened.

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  4. These photos are absolutely beautiful Sade! Looks like a wonderfully nostalgic trip xx


  5. Your trip sounds like so much fun and your grandmother sounds so strong! Love the pictures, there's a certain nostalgic feel to them, the one of you in front of the boat is so lovely.

    I haven't been to Lagos since I left three years ago and I miss it a lot. But sometimes, I ask myself if I'm romanticizing it too much because as much as I enjoyed living in Lagos, there were so many times that I hated it too.And I was only 16 when I left so it's not like I even had to fend for myself. There's definitely a difference in visiting it for a short while and actually living there, especially as an adult.

    I agree with you, there are other 'isms' in Nigeria such as sexism and tribalism, thankfully though, there really isn't racism so that's that. Whether London or Lagos, I know you'll be fine either ways Sade.xx

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  6. 80! What a blessing. I remember watching Yossy's video a few months ago and being struck by how beautiful you all are.

    I don't know if you know of her but Dara Oke has recently moved back to Nigeria after growing up in the US. Before that it was Yagazi, I actually enjoyed Yagazie's Lagos videos. I think returnees, is that even the correct word, will always lead lives a little removed from the average person in Lagos (or in Johannesburg!) or their peers. But does that mean you shouldn't stake that claim? I don't think so.

    Great images and writing as always.


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