Protecting Slum Communities in Lagos – Two Arguments, Two Visual Approaches

Makoko is an ancient community on the Lagos Lagoon.  Its people have been living on the coastline and water for hundreds of years, as Lagos – the biggest city in sub-Saharan Africa, simply grew up around it.  Lagos is riddled with many fascinating neighborhoods, but none is as unusual as Makoko.

Makoko is split into two halves – Makoko-on-Land and Makoko-on-Water.  When walking through the narrow streets, wooden bridges, and mazes of shops and houses, it impossible to tell exactly when the land ends and the water begins.  Puddles of water and much become more frequent, then suddenly you are surrounded by people in boats, and before long, you are in a completely water-bound world, with houses, shops, schools, transportation, all happening on the water, its people navigating the canals and open lagoos with the practiced ease of a people who have lived in these conditions for generations.

Amazingly, the neighborhood spills out into the Lagos lagoon and almost reaches the Third Mainland Bridge – a major highway in Lagos.  Thus, almost every Lagos resident has seen this mysterious place from their car, a mass of buildings built on stilts in the water, with a permanent cloud – the by-product of hundreds of fish smokers – lingering above.

Makoko, like many such communities in Lagos, is under constant threat of demolition by the Lagos government.  Places like Makoko are called slums – for some good reasons and some bad reasons – and are made to seem like interchangeable masses of squatters; congregations of misery that should not exist in an increasingly modern Lagos.

The picture, of course, is much more complex than that.  These two videos are designed to help people of Makoko, and their advisers at the Social and Economic Rights Action Center, protect their community.  The two videos take two approaches – the first is designed to educate the general Lagos public about the fascinating community in the middle of their city.  The second makes an economic argument against destroying Makoko, and tries to encourage Lagos legislators and government officials to think about Makoko in a different way.

The first:

And the second:

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