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Lagos Lockdown

Lockdown Diaries: Lagos

Lagos Lockdown

In Africa’s largest and fastest-growing city, lockdown restrictions are being eased from today – figures from the city’s creative scene share their journal entries from isolation

We’re living through unprecedented times – the current, very unusual alteration to the way we live life right now calls for solidarity, togetherness, and communication. So on Dazed, we’ve created the #AloneTogether community. Across the days, weeks, or months of the coronavirus pandemic and concurrent isolation measures, we’re connecting with our audience to offer URL experiences, art, and advice made with you and talent from across music, fashion, art, tech, and politics. We may be alone, but we are together.

Lagos – a city where a huge 60 per cent of the population are under 25 – has been the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Nigeria. But today sees the beginning of an easing of lockdown restrictions across the state. Like in many other countries, the lifting of strict lockdown rules feels necessary to keep the livelihoods of the state’s daily workers intact, but a concern for people’s lives hovers over the decision. When we checked in with creatives featured in our spring/summer 2020 issue, many of them were concerned for their wider communities, and were working with organisations like Food Project Lagos and Feed Ikoyi to get food to those who need it. “It’s been super hectic here in Lagos,” said Bolaji Animashaun, director of Lagos Fashion Awards. “A few friends and I have been feeding about 1000 people daily through Food Project Lagos to help those who are currently impoverished due to the lockdown. As most government programmes don’t reach deep into the communities, we are left to do much of the caretaking of our local communities.” In the next part of our Lockdown Diaries series, we asked some of Lagos’ brightest artists, musicians, filmmakers and photographers to give us a window into their lockdown so far.

For the full spring/summer feature, also published today, click here.

DAFE OBORO, FILMMAKER, PHOTOGRAPHER AND DAZED 100 NOMINEE

Dafe Oboro, Saturday May 2:

TV antennae around my neighbourhood move only when a clearer picture is needed. That is how I feel at home these days, stationed like a TV antenna. I only move when it is essential.

I started off isolation weeks before the lockdown down in Lagos. I spend an embarrassing amount of time on social media than I used to, Twitter is my go-to plus a lot of movies and series on Netflix.

I’m sure you can tell that I haven’t been working, neither have I being able to sleep as much as I want to during the day. The noise around here really bothers me. Yes, people are not staying home here in Lagos and I don’t entirely blame them for that, they’ve got to feed themselves and their families. 

The noise at night is no good either, it used to be very peaceful since everyone automatically goes to bed but since the lockdown began, there’s been a slight increase in crime rates, particularly at night, perpetuated by young girls and boys. Some people have taken it upon themselves to stay awake from 9pm to 6am to protect their communities and neighbours.

It’s 6am now, let me close my eyes for a second. 

Good morning and good night!

THE KEMIST, DJ AND FILMMAKER

Olukemi Lijadu, Friday April 10: 

How do I feel?

Let us talk about quarantine season, let us talk about an unreliable world and deep instability. Let us talk about a year of staying inside. Let us talk about love during the time of quarantine and let us discuss deep boredom and scarcity. I am in Lagos now. I spoke to my grandma today, we laughed, I miss her hugs. I pray my grandparents stay in good health, I pray they feel loved despite our absence. We are so lucky to have the luxury of social distancing, but it is painful.

A lot of music has not felt right to listen to during this time but this does. 

FEMI JOHNSON, PHOTOGRAPHER AND FILMMAKER

Femi Johnson, Friday May 1: 

It is a surreal experience but we do live in strange times – in uncertain times. I can’t help but feel the historic presence of it all, experiencing everything together – the whole world. It is WILD. As I write this the Government of Nigeria is lifting the Lockdown in Lagos on Monday, and I can see why because the economy cannot survive a lockdown but I cannot help but worry about what lies in the dark for our future. As a freelancer, as an artist, the lockdown is not different from my everyday life. I live in an Artist Residency with my friends, a photographer, a content creator and a fashion designer, who all make profound work, so I am constantly surrounded by love, support and ideas. The range of talent keeps my mind active and keeps me on my feet. The inspiration makes me work as I have shot a short film in this time frame, started shooting more content. In all honesty isolation has been fun. (But) as a humanitarian I am so concerned about everyone, and I cannot stress how historic these times are, all I want is for people to be fed, love to be shared and for this event to be documented.

This photograph I attached, showing the famous Lekki-Link bridge in the back, can never be (captured) again in the next 30 years. As that street in Lagos is always so filled with traffic, taking hours to drive across, but it’s now a few minutes bicycle ride.

FADEKEMI OGUNSAYA, ARTIST AND ARCHITECT

Fadekemi Ogunsaya, Saturday April 18:

As I write this, I am sitting under a large tree in my garden, under the shade. I feel such a nice breeze here. I’ve begun taking comfort in nature, for it is something I can see is more powerful than me. This tree is old and tall and wise, probably older than me. It will be here when I’m gone. It has only one job, which is to grow. It grows in whatever direction it is supposed to grow. Even if it gets cut down or burnt or destroyed, it will grow again. Other trees do not mourn because they know that they are one in the same. They know that they have lost nothing and will continue to grow. It is quite harsh. But that is what it is. Divine order can not be disrupted.

IFEBUSOLA SHOTUNDE, PHOTOGRAPHER AND FILMMAKER

Ifebusola Shotunde, Wednesday April 29:

The lockdown has been quite interesting. I have felt so many emotions in the past few weeks, it’s unreal. I learnt a lot about myself and the world we live in. I’ve been sad, grateful, anxious & confused. The silence and uncertainty of things has made me doubt many things I believed in the past. It’s made me more curious about life and evolution because it feels like we are all being forced to either evolve or die. It’s a very strange time.

I’ve been documenting a lot for future references and for people who cannot go out right now to see what’s going on in my city. I’ve also been spending time learning new skills to keep myself busy and pass time. It’s pretty difficult to focus on anything these days because there’s a lot going on right now in the world that’s affecting my life and the lives of my loved ones.

My favourite word today is ‘turmoil’ (A state of great disturbance, confusion or uncertainty).

TOBI ONABOLU, COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER ART X LAGOS

Tobi Onabolu, Saturday April 25:

I’m grateful for this luxury of being able to feel my way into the day, tuning into my body and allowing it to organically respond to each present moment. I’m lucky to be in a part of Lagos which remains pretty quiet at the busiest of times. As I open my curtains and a great wall of soft light basks through my floor length windows, stillness reigns supreme. I imbibe that stillness and transmit it back into my immediate environment. 

Morning now starts with a 20-minute meditation as I refuse to face the day without re-centering or settling my mind. The tranquility from my meditation prepares me for yoga which gives me some time to really touch base with my body, and show it some love. I’m not a yogie, I’m super new to this but having this time to embark on a yoga journey has been my greatest act of self-love in the past 2 years of my life. 

Sweating from the intensity of these online sessions (praying that I’m not the only one struggling to keep up), I prep my shower and pause. Sheltered from the harsher realities of the precarious situation in Lagos, I have to remind myself of my fortunate circumstance, and try to practice daily gratitude. Right now in Lagos acts of kindness are more important than ever – be that small donations, or sharing food where possible.

DARE OLAITAN, FILMMAKER

Dare Olaitan, Monday April 27: 

lagos, nigeria has now been locked down for 31 days.

31 days.

a month without leaving the house.

a month of introspection.

time has officially lost meaning.

I used to spend a lot of time indoors because I spend a lot  of my time writing but this feels different.

it IS different. 

it’s strange not being able to go outdoors.

the city is suddenly so silent.

i used to wake up at 4am to go to the gym.

that’s done now.

you can have a summer body next year.

i paint a lot when I am stressed.

i have no more canvas to paint on due to the lockdown.

i must be stressed.

i have started illustrating on my iPad.

i doodle for hours now.

AYO LAWSON

Ayo Lawson, Thursday April 30: 

There has been a lockdown in Lagos for about a month plus and it really has been a rollercoaster. As a curator, my work entails a lot of physical interaction (as much as there are virtual concerts going on, it’s not the same) and with our current reality, organising physical events or exhibitions seems so far-fetched. Outside of the travel industry, the events industry is probably the second most affected right now. Two of my events I am organising are currently on hold but someone once told me I can curate anything so I have been finding ways to still curate: working on my YouTube page, graphic design and developing other skills. Even looking into curating playlists, just to keep the creative juices flowing.

Personally though, this lockdown has (been) surprisingly bearable. I now have ample time for myself, family and those little self care routines I’ve been putting off. I workout everyday now, am (taking) skin care more seriously and (am) working my mental health. It has really given me the time to set out goals I want to achieve and how to achieve them. 

My schedule before was all over the place. I had quite THE social life, so you can imagine what it has taken me to adjust to this – but this also taught me I can seat my ass at home. Definitely miss the good old days with friends, going to W bar on Thursdays or Kabaal for massive nights on Saturday. 

Mediums of escape for me have definitely been my laptop, phone, Netflix and FaceTime – keeping me in check. First thing I’d probably do once this is over, is hit up my girl Z and have a chill day at the beach.

TAMARA AIHIE, SCREENWRITER

Tamara Aihie, Tuesday, April 28 (27? 29? Is it even Tuesday?):

I’ve settled into a routine now. Wake up around 11, make a cup of tea, drink said cup of tea on the roof while I stare at the significantly cleaner lagoon, then head inside and stare at my laptop.

Staring means different things on different days. Sometimes it means I write. Sometimes it means Netflix. And sometimes it means I google everything I can about coronavirus, give myself insane anxiety, then turn my laptop off and stare at the black screen until the anxiety goes away.

Before corona, evenings in Lagos always had something to offer. A night out at Velvett/W Bar, (or) some ‘really cool’ guy’s house party. A screening, an open mic night, an exhibition. Most of the time I found the options too tedious to deal with and ended up staying home, Facetiming my friend and getting cyber drunk with her. Our cyber sessions have continued (except now, instead of a lazy bottle of wine, she’s taken to making fancy cocktails). And now I find myself missing the options.

The anxiety sometimes comes back. When I think of my paused projects. When I think of my steadily dwindling bank account. When I wonder how Lagos will survive if this virus continues to spread. But then my friend sends me a picture of her cocktail of the day, I go pour a drink of my own and then I just try not to think of whatever is next. 

BOLAJI ANIMASHAUN, DIRECTOR OF LAGOS FASHION AWARDS

Bolaji Animashaun, Sunday May 3:

An average day in lockdown in Lagos is pretty much synonymous with most of the world that’s under lockdown. Only essential business are open for limited time. Social distancing is the norm and the use of face masks is now compulsory. 

There is nothing average in the day as every day comes with its own set of news and challenges. The biggest change for me is not being able to plan weeks and months in advance and having to take the days as they come, making the most of them and being truly present in every moment while having gratitude for health and for those working tirelessly to curtail this pandemic. 

When I think about the future I think of a hard reset globally and locally. In the world of fashion which I work in, I think steps were already being taken to be more accountable, more sustainable and transparent, but now more than ever it has proven that these are basic essentials in which we need to rebuild the fashion industry. The phrase the future is now has never been more apt. 

On the other hand, It’s hard to focus on work when the people around you and in your community are struggling to make things work under a nationwide lockdown. We saw an uprising of men, women and their children take to the streets putting up signs on how they want food and not money – and how they are more terrified of dying of hunger than Covid-19. On a drive from one of our grocery runs one day, a friend and I spotted some men waving these signs and flagging every car they (saw). Looking for ways to make ends meet and put food on their table for the day.  

The government initiatives did not seem to be reaching people in various communities, as they focused on the elderly or remote areas, we could not sit and wait for the government to realise what was happening. We knew something had to be done. Food Project Lagos to date has provided more than 12000 meals to those in need during these times. This has been possible with the help from friends and local businesses who have been supportive. (It's been) a truly rewarding experience.