Lights, Rugged Hills and Broken China

I first put up this piece as a Facebook note last year, the thoughts expressed persist till date and I still find myself marvelling at the unique dynamics at work in the ancient city of Ibadan, Oyo state, Nigeria.

Do dig in, please. Bon appetit 🙂
running splash of rust
and gold – flung and scattered
among seven hills like broken
china in the sun.
– J.P Clark

There is a song by a female American singer about New York City, it talks about how the streets of New York make you feel like you can do anything and how its lights inspires.

Whenever I travel the streets of Ibadan(the largest Western African city), the song often plays in my subconscious.

Suffice it to say, in the city of Ibadan, the lights will inspire you.

A different species of light maybe.

Embers of coal from the grilled plantain seller; glowing stumps of carelessly tossed cigarettes and mid-road bonfires; flashlight held with the mechanic‘s teeth under broken down vehicles; and lone commercial bikes in the middle of a darkened road.

The lights will inspire you.

Flashy outfits and sequined dresses on motorcycle; colourful epithets from angry road users; and rows of grand architectural designs with sudden break-ins of tattered taverns.

The lights and sights will inspire you.

Hawkers prodding you in the face with different products, faceless men excusing themselves in unseen disabilities, asking for money; calloused hands, dark faces, hopeful faces, hardened faces, soft hearts; people on roads going somewhere, coming from somewhere, or having nowhere to go.

It has got to inspire you.

A city knit into a mat of peoples, cultures, stories and places delicately interwoven into a vibrant energy.

Ibadan at dusk is a silent opera of light-spangled darkness; there are rude interruptions of expansive darkness by brightly shining bulbs. A vast collage of wealth and squalor; bustling life and hustling lull, expensive light and costly darkness.

Interestingly, the evening merely continues a story that the dawn started, and the noon gives stage lights to, because suddenly:

From the spread of rusty corrugated roofs of ancient ancestry, haggard looking structures that seem like they were hurriedly thrown together, there would often stand the sudden startling beauty of some architectural ingenuity.

Some form of sanely planned and well executed projects make an appearance with no prior warnings in the middle of obvious disorganization, and it warms your heart. It catches and holds your attention; it can go as far as to stimulate your imagination and quicken your heartbeat. It is welcome and welcoming. It is beautiful. It is inspiring (?)

Sadly though, it is often not the lights of Ibadan that inspire as much as it is the darkness. The people whose reality the dark has become, the ones that have been robbed of light by insensitive and unfaithful mansion dwellers holding office- the 100watts bulbs that betrayed public trust; the sirens and endless convoys that go home to generators fuelled by the sweat and blood of the city’s poor.

Souls live in darkness of human making, while people that could have been of help chose to turn a blind eye.

A day for the people and her government shall come. Today is the day to challenge the lights of the world shining.

Howdy Light? How do you affect the darkness that’s around? What can you do (to help) that you’re not doing?

How much inspiration can an onlooker garner from your illumination?

You belong on the lampstand, where city slickers like Mary J. and I can see by your shine, not in hiding. Stop cursing the darkness when you can light a candle!
There is enough light in you to power up the world.

This creation still wait on you to manifest, oh light. Inspire us!

 New york City


3 thoughts on “Lights, Rugged Hills and Broken China

    • Thanks Ujuh.
      You should definitely visit Ibadan sometime, I attended Uni there and it is such a cool departure from the hustle and bustle of the “megacities”…
      there are noteworthy landmarks there too…

  1. “going somewhere, coming from somewhere, having nowhere to go” This is very typical of Ibadan coupled with the cluster of brown roofs that portrays the antediluvian city.

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