What happens when you strip Lagos of its colours?

Lagos is a very colourful city. Chaotically colourful, some say. However, its beauty, identity and soul lie strongly in its identifying colours. Like the yellow Danfos, for instance, or the burnt red corrugated roofing on almost every building, or its black and white street pavements and as well as the general colours of wear and tear for nearly everything else that has aged. So, what happens when you strip Lagos of all its colours, what do you find? One photographer, Logo Oluwamuyiwa, has embarked on the singular task of stripping Lagos of its noise, chaos and most importantly, its colours, through his project: Monochrome Lagos, leaving the city barely recognisable except for “a line (that) cuts through, making visual sense of the space,” reads the project’s web page. We caught up with Logo to talk about his Monochrome Lagos project and explore Lagos without colours. (A Nasty Boy): Lagos is a colourful, vibrant and eclectic city. Some will say the spirit of the Lagos lies in its colours. From its signature yellow buses to the colourful clothes its inhabitants don, to the colourful buildings on every street. Why then did you decide to strip Lagos of that and present it in black and white? (Logo Oluwamuyiwa): I am a big fan of the black and white genre in photography and I’m an artist. This comes with an obligation to share my perspective of the world around me and I’m mostly drawn to the banal, that which would most likely be ignored. These colours, as you pointed out, take away all the attention – to show you what I see. I needed to calm the noise, visually, by stripping the palettes down to the simple black, white and greys in between.

(ANB): What would you say you found after you took out other colours? Was there something in particular worthy of note? (L.O.): Yes, and many before me, especially architects and urban planners, have noticed the same thing. There is order to the apparent chaos and the magic is in how the residents already understand and navigate these unseen markers that decide how the city functions. It is beautiful to observe. The beauty I have found offers a lasting artistic satisfaction regardless of the city’s feistiness. At heart, this is a love affair with Lagos as canvas and muse. (ANB): What would you say are some of the best places in Lagos you have photographed? (L.O.): I don’t know if best is the right word but some of the exciting places I enjoy shooting include the Ebute Metta-Yaba-Ojuelegba axis, Ikeja, specifically the computer village area, and, of course, the Shrine during its busy days. Long walks around the Lagos island also [prove] very exciting. (ANB): Why is this so? What do these places have in common? Or what is it about them that excites you? (L.O.): They are a unique melting pot of what makes Lagos. The population [is] dense so [I] get to watch people [go about their day]. Also, the history around the spaces [excites me] as [it is] the core where [the] Lagos we know expanded [from]. (ANB): Impressive. Where do you see these pictures going to? (L.O.): The photos are curated to be shown via virtual digital social media platforms. This serves as a living archive of the city and allows engagement with Lagosians who have embraced the tech revolution and encourage a conscious observation of viewers’ surroundings in a city where everything is constantly in a rush. The ultimate external objective of the project is to hone a paradigm shift in how the city is perceived and appreciated by a global audience. www.monochromelagos.com. Now, from the archives, different conversations can start. From the books we publish, to exhibitions, ultimately it [becomes] a portfolio for me as an artist. In the future, when it is formidable enough as an archive it can be presented to the Ministry of Education so they can list the archive on the national curriculum for students to get a sense of photography, archiving and all the positives [from] a project like this. (ANB): What has this project taught you about Lagos and its people that you didn’t know before you embarked on it? (L.O.): Stereotypes about aggression and the average Lagosian being hard to reason with were debunked. Don’t get me wrong, there are elements of truth to it but, like every urban space, residents are often [only] on the edge of cameras. Some cities are more relaxed than the others but you have to acknowledge that the camera has been used [to propagate] several [stereotypes] about the continent in general. So, when you go out to shoot in a place like Lagos, you want to be prepared for a pseudo-mental game of being calm enough to express your intentions and willingness to bond with random strangers while seeking access.

(ANB): That must have been an interesting experience. What do you have planned for the future? (L.O.): For the future, I’ll keep making work around these themes of storytelling, archival material and history and the plan is to be successful at that.

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