When I had just moved to Surulere four years ago, my Friday afternoons with Baba Fakeye were sacred. Whatever I was doing during the week, I would make sure that every Friday at 4 p.m. I’d drive out to the National Theatre to have a cold Star with Baba under the mango tree in front of the Universal Studios of Art. We would watch the egrets poking their beaks in the grass of the meadows surrounding the theatre, see swarms of dragonflies flitting over the marshland further down, and discuss the ripeness of the mangos. You can imagine my shock when at the end of January I came across the news headlines that artists’ workshops at the National Theatre had been demolished.
Read my column in the latest edition of Surulere Now!
Movies in Hausa, the language of the largest ethnic group in northern Nigeria and the lingua franca in that region, are extremely popular in the predominantly Muslim north. This film industry has been coined Kannywood, after the city of Kano that it originated in. Its movies make up about 30 percent of the films produced by the Nigerian-based film industry popularly called Nollywood, which is often portrayed as the third-largest in the world, after Hollywood and Bollywood. Kannywood even has its own TV channel, Africa Magic Hausa.
Read my reportage on the women in Kannywood on Al Jazeera.
She was taken out of primary school at the age of 12 to marry a man in his 40s whom she had never met before. Today, that illiterate girl who didn't even know how to boil water and who, one year and eight months after the wedding, was finally sent back to her father's house in disgrace, has become one of northern Nigeria's most well-known writers and the first female Hausa-language author to be translated into English.
Read my feature on Al Jazeera
The nocturnal walk home through Lagos would take him up to two hours, after he had played all night at the West End Coliseum, a popular nightclub on Lagos Island. It was the mid-1960s and the young man, Sunday Ishola Adeniyi Adegeye, still an unknown artist, could not afford the cab fare home. Today, 69 and long known as King Sunny Ade, he is a wealthy man and one of Nigeria’s most famous musicians. He became the worldwide icon of juju, the Yoruba praise music driven by the rhythm of the talking drum accompanied by Hawaiian-style guitar. For the New York Times I wrote a feature about the Lagos of this juju superstar.
Read my article in NYT
Fola Adeola, chairman of Main One Cable Company, remembers the day Funke Opeke came to his office and said: 'Let's lay a cable from Portugal.' He was stunned. 'That's what foreigners do, not what we do. The Nigerian environment often makes things so hard that we don't even try.' But the Nigerian electrical engineer pulled it off, causing nothing short of a cyber revolution in her country. I profiled Funke Opeke for Al Jazeera.
Meet the woman who physically connected Nigeria to the net
A glazed look is the most you can expect if you tell someone in Sub-Saharan Africa that you are an atheist or humanist. Many people do not know what either entail or actually believe that atheists worship the devil. In the deeply religious Nigeria non-believers are often misunderstood, but they do exist. I spoke to a former christian from the south, and a former muslim from the north.
Read the interviews here
Coming up the hill from Oyo Road, the tower of the Dominican Chapel is impossible to miss. Its concrete palisades topped with a cross rise above the treetops like a ship's mast. Consecrated in 1973, it is a landmark in Ibadan, a city about 120km from Lagos in Nigeria's south. But ask any passer-by who designed it, and you will likely be met by a blank stare. Not many will have heard of Demas Nwoko, who is now 79 years old and leads a secluded life in the eastern Nigerian village where he was born.
Read my portrait of the building on Al Jazeera
From international to local: recently I have become a columnist for Surulere Now!, the free newspaper in my neighbourhood in Lagos. Fellow Surulerans can get the paper version for free in plenty of hotels and shops in the area. Its online presence is still quite minimal, so let me give the non Surulere dwellers a sneak preview: in the latest edition of my column Navigating Surulere, I decide to take my citizenship more seriously.(more)