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Introducing Lagos

By James Drakeford

Posted: 11th July 2014 14:28

Nigeria’s previous capital, Lagos, is an essential stop-off point for anyone visiting West Africa.  This megacity is the largest and most populous in Africa and is spread over a collection of islands which are linked together by a network of bridges.  Since the 1960s, when the city was inhabited by less than one million people, it is estimated that the population of Lagos has snowballed into numbers between 13 and 17 million, making it one of the fastest growing cities in the world.  The city is as fast moving as it is fast growing, that is, if you ignore the likelihood of getting caught in a traffic jam.  The exploding arts and music scene pulsates through the city, winding through the diverse, paradoxical streets which, like marmite, will either send people running for the hills or leave them yearning for more. 


Amidst the hectic city walls, discover traditional Africa, courtesy of artist Nike Davies Okundaye.  After delivering workshops on Nigerian textiles throughout the world, Okundaye returned to Nigeria to discover the customary methods of weaving and dying that led to her original inspiration were fading and therefore used her international success to spark a cultural revival.  One of the unmissable art centres she has built is in Lagos and boasts four floors which are chock-a-block with contemporary and traditional Nigerian art. 

If you prefer musical to visual arts, then perhaps a visit to the former home of legendary Afrobeat musician, Fela Kuti will blow your trumpet, or even your saxophone.  The Kalakuta Republic Museum provides a fascinating insight into the life of the late star, with many parts of the house remaining in-tact, including his bedroom and even his underwear.  Another place not to miss is Freedom Park, constructed from the ruins of Her Majesty’s Broad Street Prisons; it is now a national memorial, a historic landmark and an arts and recreation centre which has transferred old feelings of oppression into new ones of hope. 


Due to the overwhelming nature of Lagos, it is necessary to find an escape.  Fortunately, you needn’t look far as Lagos has an abundance of beaches sat on its doorstep.  Eleko Beach is one of the most pristine and fashionable public beaches in Lagos.  Visit one of the many bars along the coast or sit back and shade yourself from the hot African sun in a rented beach-hut whilst someone makes up a barbeque for you.  Once fed and rested, check out some individual and authentic Nigerian art at the nearby market or participate in one of many sporting activities. If you’re willing to travel that little bit further in search of serenity, then head west to the coastal town of Badagry.  Here, visitors can relax betwixt the many coconut trees of the resultantly named Coconut Beach. 


Fela Kuti’s original shrine was burnt down, but his children have come together and created the New Africa Shrine in his honour.  Snacks, ice-cream and palm wine are on offer whilst you witness the Kuti’s continuing their father’s legacy.   If all of the aforementioned activities aren’t enough, then see in the morning at one of Lagos’ many clubbing venues.  Cocktails, live DJ sets, pool parties are all on the evening menu, but be aware that Lagos is as superficial as they come and ‘the place to be’ last night is probably not the place you should be tonight.

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