Nigeria’s Lagos, a dynamic city put into words by writer Sophie Bouillon

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Readers of Polish creator Ryszard Kapuściński (The Shadow of the Solar) and Swedish author Stig Dagerman (German Autumn) already know that the way forward for journalism could not lie with the web or the few remaining newspapers nonetheless decided to outlive.

At any price, that is the conclusion one can draw after studying Sophie Bouillon’s new ebook, Manuwa Avenue. On this 140-page work of narrative non-fiction, the 37-year-old journalist, paperwork her previous 12 months – to be perpetually remembered because the 12 months of coronavirus – dwelling in Lagos. It’s a important departure from the information articles she produces for Agence France Presse.

Staying true to her award-winning fashion, which beforehand earned her an Albert Londres Prize (the French equal of the Pulitzer Prize) for ‘Bienvenue chez Mugabe’, Bouillon thoughtfully intertwines experiences from her private life and musings on her profession with razor-sharp, clear-eyed observations about on a regular basis life in Lagos.

In so doing, she sheds gentle on each the bubbling and harsh aspect of sub-Saharan Africa’s most populous metropolis. Quite than ship a navel-gazing train in autobiographical fiction, the creator actually confronts her privileged place in society, as a citizen of an prosperous nation and an individual whose job is to report on the turmoil of a nation racked by inequality and political violence.

Brutality of capitalism

“‘Significantly, of all of the international locations you possibly can go to together with your passport, you need to come reside right here?’ The query was not directed at me. But, regardless of the hubbub of dialog and the music blasting from the audio system, it had resonated actually deeply with me. It was lastly the weekend, a Saturday in January 2020. I used to be having dinner with associates at RSVP, a stylish bar and restaurant in Victoria Island – some of the unique areas in Lagos – with an outside pool, a preferred DJ and a VIP clientele,” Bouillon writes, making no effort to hide the identify of the place in query.

A couple of pages on, when she describes how the town carried out compelled evictions and razed complete neighbourhoods as a way to line the pockets of some builders, the brutality of Nigerian capitalism comes into hanging view:

Manuwa Avenue is, amongst different issues, the story of a avenue frequented by extraordinary folks whom most reporters overlook or don’t need to see.

“Ten thousand folks. Navy personnel rattled bells to wake those that have been nonetheless asleep. They knocked on the doorways of homes. Canines have been barking. ‘Hurry up!’ they shouted. At midday on the dot, bulldozers demolished every part. The 10,000 residents dwelling in Tarkwa Bay had been given 4 hours to vacate their properties.”

Nothing may cease the group members from being forcibly evicted, and what remained of Tarkwa Bay a short time later have been merely “heaps of damaged concrete blocks and furnishings torn to items and discarded beneath coconut timber”. All of the journalist may do to assist was to carry out her ridiculous job: “I made a number of movies with my telephone and posted them on Instagram with the hashtag #SaveTarkwa. That’s what folks do these days, proper?”

Moored in the course of piles of garbage

Nonetheless, this sense of powerlessness – one that may sap probably the most decided amongst us – hasn’t shaken Bouillon’s religion within the energy of phrases. And she or he unselfishly devotes them to the unvoiced. Manuwa Avenue is, amongst different issues, the story of a avenue frequented by extraordinary folks whom most reporters overlook or don’t need to see. It’s the story of many a avenue in Lagos.

“Dwelling in Lagos is a continuing reminder of our privilege,” the creator writes. “For those who purchase a yacht and invite all of the richest businessmen on the town, it can nonetheless be moored in the course of piles of garbage, whereas the stink of sewage fills the air. Construct partitions round your villa, you probably have the means, and attempt to avert your eyes from the remainder of the town because it passes you by in your SUV with tinted home windows. As you make your option to work, you’ll nonetheless see the dozens of males, girls and kids who sleep, bathe, piss, defecate, fashion their hair and dress in each avenue. In each transport container or deserted constructing. In anywhere in any respect in each sq. metre of the town.” Welcome to Lagos.



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