LAGOS STATE @ 50 May 27, 2017

My feet first touched Nigerian soil in 1972. Lagos State was a mere five years old. Eko Bridge (1975) had not yet been built; the only bridge that connected the mainland (and Apapa where we lived) with Lagos Island was Carter Bridge.

Nigeria Magazine 1961, Carter Bridge

Of course, Lagos (Èkó in Yoruba) has a much longer history than 50 years, in fact, people have inhabited these islands for centuries. The actual founding of the area is lost; however, it is recorded that the first people to settle in the fifteenth century were known as Awori, a Yoruba subgroup.

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Nigeria Magazine 1961

Lagos meaning ‘lakes’ named by the Portugese explorers around 1472, naming the Lago de Curamo. Lagos was first a port city originated on a collection of islands that are separated by creeks. Open to the Atlantic Ocean, it was protected by long sand bars, now completely urbanized. The islands consist of Victoria, Ikoyi and Lagos Islands are the network islands which are separated from the Mainland.

Before the creation of Lagos State on 27 May 1967, Lagos, which was the country’s capital. Eventually towns—Epe, Badagry, Agege, Ikeja, Ikorodu— from nearby regions were incorporated into Lagos State.

Nigeria Magazine 1961

Nigeria Magazine 1961

To celebrate Lagos State at 50, I am posting a series of articles (from my private collection) written in 1961 for the Nigeria Magazine, which published a special centenary supplement to celebrated one hundred years (1861-1961) since the Yoruba Kingdom of Lagos was ceded to Britain by its ruler, Dosunmu. On the 1st of October 1960, Lagos became the capital of Nigeria. Today, Abuja is the capital of Nigeria but Lagos remains the a mega commercial centre of Nigeria and Africa.

Read about Lagos :

British Occupation of Lagos 1861-1961

The Beginning of Modern Lagos

LAGOS—Nigeria’s Melting Pot

A Walk Through Lagos Island

To view captions, pass the cursor over the photograph.

All rights reserved by Lesley Lababidi.

A Persistent Woman in Benin

Mâtiné de Souza.

Beninoise

Educator, Tour Guide, Trader, Women’s Right Activist and Street Children Crusader

I met Mâtiné three years ago on a road trip from Nigeria to Togo. I was so impressed with her accomplishments that I wrote a magazine article, Ghost of Slavery Past and Present.’ At the time she cared for street children in her home helping them find a foothold.

Mâtiné had a dream to open a center/school for street children of Quidah, her home town. Mâtiné’s positive attitude crossed paths with an American photographer and traveller, Craig Sherod, and within the last year, they opened:

Homeless Children’s Center of Ouidah

 

Announcement: Lecture at Megawra, February 28, 2017

16796999_1263575643736676_2507163241973831323_ohttp://megawra.com/event/city-walks-another-perspective-narrating-cairos-history/

For those in Cairo and interested in the chronological growth of city walks in Cairo, Egypt, from 1970-2016, tracing initiatives (individual and organizational) across ten criteria, Shaimaa and I are presenting our paper that we unveiled for the event that was organized by Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, University of Birmingham, Inheriting the City, April 2016. Lecture is in Arabic, slide show in English. See post, “Conference, Inheriting the City’ here; and at Shaimaa’s newsletter: http://shaimaa-keephuntingphotos.blogspot.com.eg/2016/08/narrating-cairo-walks-exploring-taipei.html

Conference Paper: City Walks: Another Perspective for Narrating the City

Obelisque Magazine – 2017

coverObelisque Magazine, published annually, is now available. The following articles are my contributions to the magazine*.

EIFFEL IN EGYPT

(read article here)

(Text by Lesley Lababidi; Photographs by Omneya Oun)

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THE ART OF LIVING

(read article here)

(Text by Lesley Lababidi; Photographs by George Fakhry)the-art-of-living-05-001

STREET ART – Nahdat Misr

(Text and photography by Lesley Lababidi)

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Read more about Nahdat Misr here

*Effiel in Egypt, Art of Living, and Nahdat Misr  by Lesley Lababidi, copyright 2017. All rights reserved under international copyright laws. To copy or re-produce photography and/or writings, written permission from Lesley Lababidi is required.

**Articles are seen in Obelisque Magazine 2017, all rights reserved. Photographs and text cannot be reproduced without the written permission of Obelisque Magazine and Lesley Lababidi, George Fakhry, Omneya Oun.

***To purchase the magazine, in Cairo, Tanis at the First Mall, Giza; 32 Mohamed Anis, Zamalek and Ritz Carlton, Downtown. Outside of Egypt, contact: obelisque_magazine@yahoo.com or info@obelisquepublications.com. Telephone: +201094449762.

2017

“Beauty always has an element of strangeness… simple, unintended, unconscious strangeness [which] gives it the right to be called beauty.”

Charles Baudelaireimg_2147

Two Egyptian masons take time to greet me as I walk along a bridge in Manial, an island  in Cairo. They shout, Kol Sinna wa enta Tiyeeba...may your year be delicious! Although this is a typical greeting for a birthday or a feast and,sometime just to wish someone well, it is, of course, the greeting for the New Year.

With all the complexities and insecurities of the 2016, it has been difficult for me to say, “Happy” New Year, knowing that 2017 continues a  grim reality for millions of people suffering from inadequate food and shelter,  stripped of their identity and country as communication breaks down everywhere. So today, when I met these two masons who unreservedly communicated goodwill, within those seconds, my emotional response was that of gratitude… for standing on this bridge, at this moment and feeling beauty of tender gratitude.

Thank you to each individual, visitor and follower alike, who grace this web site with your time, your attention, and your most welcomed comments. I am genuinely grateful.

Asyut to Sohag: a story of movement and migration

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Friends of Manial Palace and Friends of the Coptic Museum at the Red Monastary, Sohag, Egypt

Prince Abbas Hilmi, the chairman of Friends of Manial Palace, enthusiasm to promote Egyptian heritage was demonstrated yet again by organizing an excursion to Asyut, Sohag, and Akhmim, Egypt. Members of the Friends of Manial Palace along with members of the Friends of the Coptic Museum came together for a three-day excursion in December 2016. Our leader and guide was the well-known Egyptologist, Dr. Rawya Ismail. Ahmed Essa from Eagle Travel managed the trip logistics with great success. And to our good fortune, Abouna Maximus, Coptic historian and expert in antique Coptic iconography was on the excursion as well.

I do not claim to be an authority, whatsoever, of Egyptology, archaeology, or Coptic theology (for that matter, any theology), my knowledge is elementary. I offer a glimpse into the past, spanning over 3000 years of history in Upper Egypt. From the reign of Akhenaten at al-Amarnah (1373-1364 BCE) to the Monastery of Virgin Mary at Deir Dronka (1st century), our trip included the White Monastery (442 CE) and Red Monastery (4th century) in Sohag, the Tombs of Meir (6th-12th Dynasty), ancient town of Akhmim, mawlid celebrations in honor of the birth day of prophet Muhammed, mawlid al nabi, (celebrations traced to the Abbasid Caliphate) and the Asyut barrage (1903).

The great Prussian naturalist, explorer, and geographer, Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) wrote about the interconnectedness of the universe and said, “In this great chain of causes and effects, no single fact can be considered in isolation.” Migration is the process in which people move from one place to another for the purpose of settlement. What connects our modern story to the incredible human history, monuments, and philosophy of the past are found in stories of movement and migration. Click on links above for a brief look at connections with past civilizations.

**All rights reserved by Lesley Lababidi. To copy or re-produce photography and/or writings, written permission from Lesley Lababidi is required.

Afikpo Masks

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otugukpokpo or woodpecker is an animal mask worn in okwu masquerades and funeral rites; also worn by musicians okunkpa. Mask carver: Okocha Ota jr.

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mbeke mask representing the white race, oyibo or mbeke meaning white man in Igbo language. According to history the mask is named after a British medical officer, Dr. Baikie, who worked among the eastern Igbo during the mid-1800s. The mask represents a wide range of European characters, i.e. colonial officers, missionaries, merchants. Mask carver: Okocha Ota jr.

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Igiri meaning lunacy worn only during iko-okochi  (a dry season festival) as part of a dance choreography to represent the erratic movements of a madman. Mask carver: Okocha Ota jr.

Afikpo, Nigeria (see map) was a centre of ancient Igbo tradition. These ceremonial masks were used in the 1970’s for elaborate masquerades associated with men’s  secret societies and the initiation of boys into them as well as annual festival cycles; all of which was an important part of Afikpo life. All the masks are the creation of Afikpo master carver Okocha Ota Jr.

Some masks represent animals—a goat or a woodpecker. Others are human-like male or female spirits,  a white person or a madman.  The style is narrow, oval or elongated, delicate: bands of raffia tied to the back of the mask hold it in front of the face.img_1219nigerian-masks-001nigerian-masks-2-001fullsizerender-13Biography of a mask carver: Okocha Ota Jr.

Born on 11th November 1949 in Afikpo, Nigeria, Ota Okocha Ota Jr. took a serious interest in art and crafts. He studied the Afikpo cults and masquerade traditions and travelled through the eastern part of Nigeria to Calabar, Awka, Nsukka, Ahoada, Ibibio, Edda, Nkporo, and Arochukwu photographing festivals which earned  him the nickname, “onyia-oha” meaning the greatest.  In January 1966, Okocha Ota Jr. organized a course for apprentices and started to produce various objects drawn from different parts of Eastern region. After the Civil War in 1971, he successfully organized group exhibition in Enugu, Ibadan, Lagos, and Zaria.

How I became an artist

by Okocha Ota jr.

As history may have it, Afikpo is a land rich in arts and culture and it leaves no doubt why I should emerge from this glorious highland. I was born on a bright summer day, 11th November 1949, in a little quarter, known as ‘Godachall Villa’ – a breed of prosperous cultural family at Mgbom village situated at the heartland of Afikpo town, south-east of the Igboland in the East Central State of Nigeria.

I have less to offer on my educational status. I attended and obtained the Ministry of Eduction first school leaving certificate in 1961 in Afikpo. A little further between 1962 and 1965 I trained in a government handicraft vocational school – a detachment of the government owned secondary/ technical school at Afikpo, where I came out with flying colours.

At the age of seven, my father, a renowned physician and a craftsman in Afikpo, called my attention on one evening as one of the beloved sons. Being interested in me, he requested my explanation on why I should characterize in exhibiting before him toys of wooden carvings, clay moulding, and painted pictures of Afikpo masquerades produced by me. I had little of excuse to offer and remember telling him that ” those who live in glass windows should not throw stones.” This reminded him that I was completely of his blood. He wished if I should retort attaining scholastic hero rather than artistry which had been dominated by the family in Afikpo town. I objected and replied, “Daddy, you can’t force nature.” He broke the conversation, shrewd, nodded and remarked before a section of the family: “Keep it up my son, for you are garlanded with laurels of artistic genius which do not grow on trees.” He then recalled the memories of our ancestors and grandfathers viz: Egu, Uzo Iǵbe Oka, Okoroukwu Ukwenyi, Aja Iberekwukwu, Uche Otta and Ekuma Okocha etc., etc. With this remark and impression, I was emotionally geared to embrace crafts, arts, and culture as my hobby. -1974

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For further readings about Afikpo traditional art and customs:

-Afikpo Masquerades: Audience and Performers Author(s): Simon Ottenberg Source: African Arts, Vol. 6, No. 4 (Summer, 1973), pp. 32-35+94-95 Published by: UCLA James S. Coleman African Studies Center Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3334798

“We Are Becoming Art Minded”: Afikpo Arts 1988 Author(s): Simon Ottenberg Source: African Arts, Vol. 22, No. 4 (Aug., 1989), pp. 58-67+88 Published by: UCLA James S. Coleman African Studies Center Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3336662

-S. Ottenberg, The Masked Rituals of Afikpo: The Context of an African Art, UW Press, Seattle, 1975.

-“Humorous Masks and Serious Politics among Afikpo Ibo,” S. Ottenberg, African Art and Leadership, ed. by D. Fraser and H. M. Cole, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 1972, p. 99.

**All rights reserved by Lesley Lababidi. To copy or re-produce photography and/or writings, written permission from Lesley Lababidi is required.