“Greener Pastures” multimedia exhibition brings together photography, video documentary and painting, dedicated to rural communities living along the Lagos lagoon. The exhibition by Bolaji Alonge, Sola Otori and friends took place at Didi Museum in Lagos, 16-26 September 2021.
Alonge – Eyes of a Lagos Boy, opined. “This project started in January 2018 and is the result of a collective desire to contribute to a better future for these communities. It is a derivative of the pilot study on Lagos Coastal Health that documented the health issues of people living along the Lagos lagoon coastline. This was how I first started visiting the hidden villages where it seems that time stands still. I took hundreds of shots – of the incredibly deep green environment, the aquatic splendor that abounds and of course the people living in these seemingly peaceful but also distressed areas.”
The beauty of the art works is in sharp contrast with the stark reality of these villagers, invisible as a result of predatory seaweed and lack of political will. The challenges faced by people in these riverine communities are universal, while being compounded by external factors. The photographer continues, “As time went on, a group of like-minded artists and friends joined me on this project – which resulted in the documentary that was presented at the opening reception. It captures never-seen images of these communities and gives a platform to its inhabitants.”
“I was deeply moved by the plight of these people that are living just a few hours away from metropolitan Lagos. We have to fix public education for these children, improve their livelihoods and deal with the wider environmental issues such as water hyacinth and other heavily polluting elements like plastic.”
Why did we call it Greener Pastures? “Art is not just showcasing pretty images but also showing our reality, pushing people to think and act. We hope that this project will contribute to a broader awareness, building stronger networks of concerned citizens and of course push our government to do more. This part of Lagos has never been seen before like this – it holds great potential for domestic tourism, agriculture and fishing, creating better lives in these parts of Lagos can also reduce pressure on urban slums.”
Greener Pastures multimedia exhibition ended at Didi Museum, Lagos with Kids Play on Saturday 25 September and the Public debate on Sunday 26 September.
The ten-day long exhibition brought artists, members of the media, technocrats, art lovers, environmentalists and concerned citizens from all walks of life together, creating a critical discussion and charting solutions for sustainable living for the coastal rural dwellers of Epe in Lagos. The huge media attention the exhibition garnered demonstrates public interest in the core messages of the project.
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Greener Pastures Kids Play hosted fifty young people between the ages of seven and fifteen (many of them painting for the first time) who came together, learned about art and the environment and met with their peers from different parts of Lagos including Saga – one of the 140 villages of coastal Epe. Pupils with their art teachers from New Estate Baptist School, Surulere also graced the occasion.
Sola Otori took charge of the art class, with students watching the steps of sketching and painting, then practicing the arts that revealed the artistic talents in them with an array of color blasts, shapes and storylines. The dance drama by Feetprint Afrika followed, with the youngsters first watching and dancing to the rhythm of the African drums, then joining the troupe in a frenzy of movement and sounds, heralding an engaging experience in an environment they will never forget.
Greener Pastures concluded with a Public Debate that featured strategic personalities and government representatives, introduced by Bolaji Alonge and moderated by Adun Okupe (Sahara Center). The speakers included the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, represented by Aderemi Faleye, Damilola Emmanuel – Managing Director, Lagos State Waterways Authorities LASWA, Tuyi Mebawondu, a public health expert, Akintunde Disu – Environmentalist and founder Pop Beach Club, Achenyo Idachaba-Obaro – a waste transformer and builder of livelihood and Isa Sunmonu, Director of Operations and Quality Control, Plastocare.
Mebawondu, the medical practitioner at the Greener Pastures Public Debate talked of the need for proper health facilities and medical personnel placed at ward level of the communities in the coastal region. He identified the need to incorporate developmental concepts into the wards. He underlined it will be easier to deliver primary health care services to people at the grassroots level., as well the need for water ambulances that would provide emergency services. He also stressed the importance of education in these rural communities.
Damilola Emmanuel of LASWA , stated that the government takes responsibility in the efforts to clean the environment. He suggested a tripartite collaboration of public-private-individuals-partnership program between government and private sector and the establishment of hubs which can be sponsored by private individuals to support the communities in their efforts to mitigate environmental pollution around them.
The representative of Plastocare International Limited laid emphasis on recycling that each society needs to focus on how to make their immediate environment habitable. He suggested building more capacity in themselves. Furthermore, “there is a need to take responsibility by finding volunteers and advocates of going green, we also need to completely localize our solutions such that they fit well with our surroundings.” He said.
Idachaba Obaro talked further on the use of water hyacinth for arts and interior decorations which is a significant way to use plants viewed as waste. These products, which include table mats, curtains, decorative gourds, coasters, book covers and many more can be sold in the city. This initiative can create more employment and be the basis for more interaction between local and global markets.
Visit to Epe
The ripple effects of the Greener Pastures exhibition continue to reverberate weeks after the event, positive feedback from members of the public has been encouraging, interviews with different media stations are still being held in view of proffering lasting solutions to the challenges of Lagos rural dwellers.
Immediate action taken by Alonge and friends has been the provision of books to the kids in school. Since knowledge is power, schoolbooks for kids in these villages are a priority. On October 25, school books bought with the proceeds of Greener Pastures exhibition and books donated by friends were all delivered to the kids in Saga village with their teachers and headmaster present.
A “School Books for kids in Epe (Lagos Nigeria)” GoFundMe page has been created to facilitate the process of buying up to date books for the children, while we continue to call for donations from the members of the public.
You can donate here.
Those who missed the exhibition the first time round have another chance. Greener Pastures will be presented at the Fringe Festival, 23-28 November at Freedom Park, Lagos. We look forward to seeing you there.