In Wetin You Go Do?

In Wetin You Go Do?
– Title of an installation at the Tate Modern, created by Nigerian born Otobong Nkanga

The title of Nkanga’s piece, when translated from Nigerian Pidgin, an English-based Creole language widely spoken across Nigeria, is ‘What are you going to do?’. ‘In Wetin You Go Do’ integrates voice and sculpture to reflect on contemporary anxieties.

The theme of anxiety stitched a ragged thread through the time I spent lingering in the Tate Modern after my early morning arrival in London. Or perhaps, when visiting a gallery such as this, the feelings we have, that we bring in through the door, colour the way we see the exhibits, determine the way we select what to linger with and what to pass on by?

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Those who were living now are dead
Those who were breathing are from the living earth fled.
If you want to see how the poor die, come see Grenfell Tower.

From the impassioned poem on the fire at Grenfell, by Nigerian writer, Ben Okri, whose poem, published in the Financial Times on 23 June, 2017 is a searing statement from which it is impossible to hide, impossible to avert one’s gaze, impossible to forget.

I wrote earlier this week about my arrival in London, on the red-eye from Lagos, and my efforts to both stay awake and entertained before being allowed to pass through the portal of my hotel.

I decided, after grabbing some breakfast, and scribbling a short poem, (which I published on Facebook), to walk along the South Bank to the Tate Modern. During my walk I found some inspiration by shooting the various vans being prepared for the hordes of tourists soon to fill the streets which at that time were still and relatively quiet.

What I hadn’t counted on was the degree of connectivity I felt with the things I saw and experienced that morning.

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shard (revisited)

Do you mean to tell me that you’re thinking seriously of building that way, when and if you are an architect?
– Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

Back in August last year, I shared a series of photos of The Shard, shot with my Nikon D700 and Nikkor AF 80-200mm f/2.8 D lens.

Yesterday, equipped with my Fujifilm X100F with its fixed 23mm (35mm full frame equivalent), I made these images.

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chewing gum man

But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
– W B Yeats

I like to contribute to the weekly photo challenge hosted by WordPress and must confess I hadn’t quite found inspiration for this week’s prompt, which frankly is quite unusual for me, which seems apposite as this week’s theme was indeed unusual.

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Having arrived at Heathrow this morning on a red-eye from Lagos, and finding myself unable to check in to my hotel for several hours, I took to the streets like any other self-respecting homeless person, by which I mean no disrespect to actual homeless persons, it is of course no laughing matter.

I had two main goals, one was to find breakfast (which I did, and I must have looked particularly hungry as an additional slice of bacon was added to my bacon roll and coffee), and the other, that was to walk along the South Bank to the Tate Modern. My plan being to spend six hours or so in quiet artistic contemplation, before the hotel would throw open its portals (or at least activate a smart card) to me and my battered luggage.

I also had the foresight to bring my camera with me, my Fujifilm X100F, which has now has become my constant travelling companion.

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I have still not quite become accustomed to the fact that the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge has switched from Wednesday to Friday (or even, more correctly, from Friday to Wednesday!).

I had become (more or less) settled into checking the site each Friday evening, and firing off a quick riposte to the challenge. Now it seems I’m always late to the party.

Oddly enough, this week, I did check the WordPress site at the appropriate time but have still managed to delay my response to this week’s challenge DANGER! until now.

In her challenge, Michelle spoke about ‘injecting this unexpected frisson of Danger! into an otherwise uneventful afternoon’.

Often, in Nigeria, it is not the unexpected frisson of danger, but merely the unexpected direction from which the, expected, danger might come that makes many a day anything but uneventful. That’s not to say that Nigeria is dangerous all the time, it isn’t, and I’ve made some good friends here, and you should all come and visit!

But, danger lurks everywhere, or so it seems.

I took this shot just at the entrance to the block of the building in which I am (temporarily and from time to time) living. It seems to fit the bill, no?

The building itself lies within a razor-wire fenced compound with permanent security. To gain entrance to the compound my driver (I’m rarely allowed out alone and certainly not expected to take the wheel myself) honks his horn (this is actually pretty much mandatory for any driving operation here, including driving in a straight line on an open road). That honk permits the outer gate to be opened. The boot / truck is then flipped and the security guys have a quick look inside, a mirror is used for a cursory check of the underside of the car, then the inner gate is swung open. And home sweet home.

On my journey to work, I thought I would keep a weather eye out for other signs of certain danger.

A fire, stoked by a stack of old tyres sending a thick black plume of acrid smoke into the (now mercifully dust free) sky. An abandoned mansion daubed with a black painted warning of dire consequences ‘EFCC Keep Off’. A herd of cattle being led by two young boys meandering along the margin between the half constructed buildings and the partially built road. The road-sweeper with a stick broom diligently dusting the edge of the roads as cars hurtled past with no obvious attention to lane discipline. The guy on a motor cycle happily heading against the traffic on the wrong side of the road (and of course he wasn’t wearing a helmet, no one does). The swarm of three wheel ‘Keke’ (rickshaw) taxis, weaving between the battered green taxis, blacked out government SUVs, and the ubiquitous road side sellers. And of course the frequent road blocks.

So, no danger here, just an ordinary every day ride on nigeriastreets

*Shot with Fujifilm X100F at f/2.1, 1/1000s, 23mm (35mm equivalent, no other choice) and ISO200*