“I like Lagos. When I find myself in spaces, I feel inspired to explore. The Lagos at 50 celebrations allowed me to do what I love, which is storytelling.”
These were the words of Helen Gebregiorgis, at the recent launch of her first photobook, Lagos:Budding 50, a compilation of stories and images inspired by the Lagos @ 50 celebrations. The launch took place at Freedom Park in Lagos.
In 2017, the photographer and visual storyteller had held an exhibition at the Revolving Art Incubator in Victoria Island. The images on display celebrated the stories of diverse, ambitious and resilient young Lagosians striving to improve themselves and their communities.
The book, Lagos: Budding 50 captures the spirit of resilience that pervades the city’s residents regardless of their backgrounds and individual experiences.
Speaking on how she came about the idea of documenting life in the megacity, Gebregiorgis said, “My first trip here [Lagos] was for visiting, and I was pretty amazed by the people that I met, and by all the construction happening. I also saw these banners of Lagos at 50 and from what I was told, I learnt that a lot of people that were being profiled were influential and theirs wasn’t the entire story. I’m passionate about storytelling and I was interested in speaking to everyday people who were also contributing to the development of Lagos. I also wanted to learn what was drawing people into Lagos. The city was so vibrant and incredible that I wanted to come back and I did come back.”
Gebregiorgis’ fascination with Lagos extends beyond its residents and its vibrancy. Her project, which was funded by Ford Foundation, also captured the city’s constantly evolving landscape. “I remember there was one particular incident where there was a market and I think a couple of weeks later I was told that it had been demolished and they were pushing people out,” she said.
“I was surprised by the gentrification that was happening and the question was ‘what happened to those people?’”
The launch featured a panel discussion involving actress and producer, Bikiya Graham-Douglas; art curator, Kennii Ekundayo; writer and media strategist, Toni Kan, and lawyer, Jide Bello who all spoke about the circumstances of their migration to the megacity, as well as how living in the city has made them resilient. Gebregiorgis herself added that working on this project has taught her that “resilience is being able to navigate through different circumstances”.
She said, “A lot of people that I spoke with had different stories, different experiences, different backgrounds, but there was this commonality which they all shared, which is their resilience, their drive to go for the things that they wanted to pursue. It just transformed me, even though I come from a different place.”
“I had an unforgettable experience with the participants and their stories. There was a lot of laughter and smiles with every single one of them. I felt very privileged to be in a space with them and that they trusted me to share their stories.”