Off the coast of Lagos’ mainland is a community largely situated on water. A vast floating insanitary slum filled with heartbreak, hope and resilience. As one crosses the Third Mainland Bridge, the single pathway between the mainland and the island of Lagos, they are graced with a coastal view of the community. The wooden houses built on bamboo stilts, almost uncomfortably close to each other, are an extreme contrast to the modernity of the island.
Makoko is a nation onto itself…
Life in Makoko runs on its own frequency.
At a young age, the children of Makoko are taught how to swim in a rather unusual manner. The mother, whilst holding onto one of the child’s arms, dips the children into the Lagos Lagoon, and springs them out, in then out, in then out. This motion is repeated until the children have adapted to the water and can float and maneuver around the water on their own...
As their main source of transportation, canoes are the next frontier after learning to swim. They are taught how to row from a very young age as it underpins their daily existence through fishing, trading, and transporting. Also built in Makoko, these canoes are made of wood, tar and nails, owned per family and can be identified by the engravings of the family names on them.
Teeming with the urgencies of everyday life, Makoko is a kaleidoscope of experiences, with a unique way of evolving alongside its occupants. While visitors to the community are initially concerned by the precariousness of their circumstances, the pervasive joy of the residents quickly puts those concerns to rest. Abounding in smiles, laughter and an ingrained willingness to help one another, they take great pleasure in simple encounters with good company.
Limited resources put aside, if only temporarily, in the faces of children playing across structures with each other, and resilient women and men running businesses out of their canoes or buildings. The Makoko community is just that; though deprived of much, they have humanity in abundance.
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