Greener Pastures: Changing the narratives of Epe coastal communities

An art exhibition that highlights the developmental challenges of the coastal areas of Lagos through documentary and photography is holding from September 18-26, 2021, with opening reception on Saturday September 18, 2021 from 12pm – 7pm.

Entitled ‘Greener Pastures’, the exhibition presents over 140 coastal areas in Lagos State lacking in basic social amenities, especially pipe-borne water, electricity, schools, and hospitals. Sanitation and good road network are also issues of serious concern that will be highlighted in the works at the exhibition.

The coastal areas in the spotlight of the exhibition include; Epe, Oriba, Ibon, Saaga, Ologbokere, Ikegun, Bodun, Abomiti among others.

Deep inside Epe, along the Lagos Lagoon, more than 145 villages are locked away from the bustling city life. They have been left behind and now trapped by the consequences of modernity.

In Epe, women are giving birth as their children are growing up with the hope of educational empowerment for a better future but there is little or no corresponding infrastructural development to enhance the quality of life in the area.

Epe is situated on the East of the city, rich in aquatic life with parts of it still natural and timeless. The greenery of the area extends to the surface of the lagoon as an invasive seaweed (water hyacinth) has taken over the horizon, stopping life in its tracks.

The project is a derivative of the pilot study on Lagos Coastal Health that documented the health issues of people along the Lagos Lagoon.

The duo of the organisers, Bolaji Alonge and Sola Otori, aim to use the exhibition to draw attention of the world to the lopsided infrastructural development in the coastal communities in Epe, which has been underreported by the media.

The documentary captures never seen images of the communities and gives a platform to its inhabitants.

Bolaji Alonge is an artist, photographer and actor from Lagos, with more than two decades of experience in documenting history, looking for beauty where it is least expected. His visual language speaks of the wonders of nature and human exchange and searches for historical continuity in a world that is fractured.

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On the other hand, Sola Otori is a multidisciplinary artist who explores cultural diversity in Africa and the issues of religion and spiritualism, politics and power as they affect marginalized communities. He works in photography, painting and film. His works show his land and culture as well as the need for positive change.

At a press conference held at Didi Museum in Lagos, recently, Alonge explained the reason for the project saying, “This project started in January 2018 and it is the result of a collective desire to contribute to a better future for these communities. The challenges faced by locals are universal, while being compounded by external factors”, he said.

He observed that the attitude of the inhabitants of Epe, when the project team was interacting with the people, was evasive because they felt that similar previous projects paid lip service after sharing their experience with them. But with time the people opened up as they saw hope in the vision of the project.

For Sola Otori, apart from creating awareness through the documentary, it is time for Nigerians to see themselves as their brothers’ keeper as the project preaches.

Health consultant to the project, Dr. Tuyi Mebawondu, observed that the media paints a picture of Lagos as an excellent city and contrary to the realities on ground.

He lamented that the absence of healthcare facilities in Epe is a major concern to the health condition of the people and called on the government and the corporate citizens to intervene.

“Epe, Badagry and other areas alike are totally neglected by the government. We cannot be blind to such a beautiful environment.”

Mobowondu called on the government to respond to the infrastructural needs of the areas in focus. He advocated for a clean environment to check the climate change in the areas.

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