Read your way through Lagos


For a historical overview, I would recommend “Lagos: a cultural history” by Kaye Whiteman. It traces the history of the city from the arrival of the Portuguese explorers in 1472 to the British takeover in 1861 and contemporary times. It takes us through the topography of Lagos (the island-mainland dichotomy), the streets and their stories, the city's nightlife and its film, music, art and literary scenes.

The novel by Teju Cole.Every day is for the thiefIt is in the style of a travel diary. The anonymous narrator has just returned to Lagos from New York after 15 years. He wanders around the city reflecting on his danfo buses, internet scammers, local kids, police, music center and the like. He characterizes the body language of Lagosians as one of “undiluted self-confidence,” his facial expressions proclaiming, “Believe me, you don't want to mess with me,” all to counteract the boys in the area. You will find Lagos at its best (its people are warm, stoic and wildly creative) and at its worst (street lynchings). Throughout the narrative, there is a sense of decay, mirroring that of the entire nation. In a moving episode, the narrator visits the National Museum of Nigeria in the Onikan neighborhood and finds the exhibits sparse, the sculptures and plaques “covered in dust” and “very moldy.”

The Postmodern by Chris Abani “Land of Grace” is set primarily in 1980s Lagos, in the swampy slums of Maroko. Elvis, 16, dropped out of high school. He aspires to become a professional dancer. At first, he tries to survive by posing as Elvis Presley to white expatriates, wearing a wig and dousing his face in talcum powder. His friend Redemption leads him to crime, with devastating consequences. By turns brutal and horrifying, the novel is also tender and hopeful in its portrait of deprivation, dictatorship and disillusionment. Additionally, his pastiche narrative includes notes on Igbo philosophy and recipes for delicious Nigerian dishes.

Unlike Abani's Elvis, Enitan, Sefi Atta's protagonist “All good things will come,grows up in the middle class. Born in 1960, the year Nigeria gained independence, Enitan's transition to womanhood comes against a backdrop of Nigerian civil war, military junta, and widespread corruption. Despite her privileged position (she works as a lawyer and then as a banker), she struggles to navigate her patriarchal society, the recurring sexism she suffers (including from her father), and the trauma of rape. of a friend. Her moving narrative offers feminist solutions to a nation in trouble.

In Lagos, you'll want to try some Nigerian food. The classic Nigerian jollof? The aromatic of yours or moin-moin? Whatever your appetite, “Long Throat Memoirs: Soups, Sex and Nigerian Taste Buds” by Yemisi Aribisala, is built for it. This fascinating collection of essays is part memoir, part cookbook, and part epicurean treatise, using Nigerian cuisine as a framework to analyze Nigerian society, culture, and folklore. Important themes include the urban-rural divide, the friction between the traditional and “the modern,” and the ethics behind the consumption of controversial foods such as dog meat. Aribisala's prose is energetic, skillful, and a pleasure to read. The book complements Abani's recipes. “Land of grace.”

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