Beyond the Power Lines BenChislett
“Beyond the Power Lines”
Makoko, Lagos, Nigeria
Beyond the Power Lines
I read a short news bulletin on Makoko which sparked my curiosity. The informal community, or slum, was to be demolished. I wondered who the inhabitants were, and what could be so terrible that it had to be erased from the map. So I went there.
The people I found were far more than the poor conditions which they have learnt to live with.
The district is built partially on the water, with its wooden houses on stilts hovering mystically over the Lagos lagoon. This slum version of Venice plays perfectly to poverty porn journalism, and has seen much publicity because of that. In a way this attention has been Makoko’s salvation, as being in the eye of the media makes property moguls shy away from the prime real estate, and has brought a steady flow of charities to the area.
Conditions there are bad. The water near the shore is a black, opaque and oily liquid which is used for washing, cooking, cleaning, and the dumping of refuse. The humid climate and proximity to water and the lack of an effective sanitation system makes it the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and disease. These rough conditions have bread a hardy people. Makoko may be dangerous for outsiders, but the communities of Ilaje and Egun origin have their own Bale’s or kings, social hierarchies, and strongly reglamented areas within.
I found good friends there and people I have come to deeply respect, and every time I visit Lagos, it is a fixed point on my agenda.