Lagos is the commercial hub of Nigeria with a population of more than 15million. An estimated 4,000 people migrate into the city daily from other parts of Nigeria and other countries in search of economic opportunities that they hope the city would offer.
With this influx of people comes the problem of housing coupled with the state government’s capitalistic and elitist desire to make Lagos a mega city like the other major commercial cities in the world. These problems (high demand in housing by the growing population and the Lagos State Government’s economic desire to make the city “world class”) gave rise to gentrification. At the receiving end of this are the urban poor, especially those who live and have known the waterfront communities as their ancestral home. 90% of whom are the Egun or Gunuvi tribe, a tribe of mostly fishermen and women found in South Western Nigeria (Lagos and Ogun States) and other parts of West Africa.
DISPLACED is an ongoing project which I started in early 2017 (though some of the images pre-date the project itself) while working with Justice and Empowerment Initiatives (JEI), an NGO fighting for the rights of slum and informal settlements in waterfront communities in Nigeria. I have been documenting some daily moments in the lives of the people in some waterfront communities and their protests as they try to take back their lands and/or get compensation from the Lagos State Government through the court. The project tells the story of the Egun people who are struggling to keep their communities and identity in a city that seems not to want them despite the city being their ancestral home after living there for more than four generations. About 30,000 informal settlers have been displaced by the state government between 2014 and now.
With the project, I try to look at the life and struggle of the Egun people and other informal settlers against the backdrop of globalization. And how society treats its most vulnerable members. What happens to a people’s culture, religion and identity when they are forcefully and violently evicted from a place that they have known and called home for generations? The project pays tribute to the resilient spirit of this people.