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- almost queer- mix and dynamics at work in the ancient city of Ibadan, Oyo state, Nigeria.

Do dig in, please. Bon appetit 🙂


Ibadan,
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 inspire.

The song often plays at the edge of my mind whenever I travel the streets of Ibadan (the largest Western African city) -at dusk, especially.

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 roasted-plantain seller; glowing stumps of carelessly tossed cigarette and mid-road bonfires, flashlight held with the “mechanic”s teeth under broken down vehicles; the lone okada in the middle of a darkened road.

The lights will inspire you.

The impatient flashing lights of vehicles, flashy wears and sequined dresses on motorcycle, colourful epithets from angry road users, 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, dejected faces, hardened faces, soft hearts, all on the road going somewhere, coming from somewhere, having nowhere to go.

It has got to inspire you.

It is a mat of peoples, cultures, stories and places delicately interwoven to give the town a ‘feel’.

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

But the evening merely continues a story that the dawn started, one that the noon gives stage lights to, because suddenly…

From the rubbles of a landscape, rusty corrugated roofs of ancient ancestry, haggard looking structures that seem like they were hurriedly thrown together, there sometimes stands 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 (?)

At times though, it is not the lights that inspire as it is the darkness: The people whose reality the dark has been, the ones that have been robbed of light and that, by insensitive and unfaithful mansion dwellers holding office- the shiny bulbs that betrayed public trust, the sirens and endless convoys that go home to Generators fuelled by the dark-dwellers’ sweat and blood.

Souls live in darkness of human making, yet someone that could have been of help chose not to be.

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 sir and ma -where city slickers like J. Blige and I can see by your shine – not in hiding. stop cursing the darkness, light a candle! There is enough in you to light up the world.

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

 New york City