Begun in 2009, "The Canal People" series are part of a series in the documentation of the Festac village settlement in the urban center of Lagos, Nigeria, a stretch of stilt houses built along an artificial canal offering cheap accommodation for the poorest in society. Here, I present a part which is titled; 'Our Reflections', as it tends to mirror our contributions and the state of our inner life, for we are actually a reflection of our environment. My objective is to use the images to question the effects of pollution on the ecological system and the place of man’s consumption as a major contributor to the gradual demise of our World and the Earth in particular.
The location is an artificial water canal which now acts as a repository of all sorts of liquid and solid waste. These produce putrefied foul smelling black slough-like water, which acts like a mirror, reflecting back every object on her surface. Also afloat on the surface are all sorts of discarded objects and oil streaks, which seem to suffocate the water hyacinth that is equally a menace to the canal.
The images were shot both in a conceptual and in a documentary approach. As could be observed in product photography, the idea was to glamorize the images through close-up shots, ironically selling the products on face value, but which on closer examination, exposes metaphorically the effects of the mania of consumerism by the populace, the quest for extreme profiteering on the part of the manufacturers, and the reciprocal consequences on the environment.
The after effects could readily be evidenced in our environment; more pronounced in Africa, which has become a dumping ground for products from the West and the Far East, without recourse to their effect on the environment. Like a systematic disparaging of the people, the African environment has become a testing ground for any kind of product craze and experimentation, feverishly encouraging consumption as against production and growth, leading to unemployment, high level of illiteracy, corruption and bad leadership, which like a plague has devastated and impoverished the continent.
Similarly destructive to the environment is the use of non-degradable materials like plastics and polythene materials in the packaging of consumer goods. All over our environment, one cannot help but see en-mass the pollution of water, the surface of the earth and its pores, with these hazardous materials which are scattered around the environment, clogging the gutters and water channels; breeding grounds for all sorts of diseases.
This ultimately calls for a drastic and serious examination of our mode of life, and its resultant effect on the environment, not of the hitherto lip service paid to the issue in world conferences, as this always amount to playing Ostrich, in the face of a looming world catastrophe.
Photography, over ages has been the silent documenter of life, the people and the environment. Making inventory, questioning, deducing facts, and sometimes conceptually postulating the way forward. This role is now made more pertinent in this period of the world's dire strait - that the place of the photographer, as the perpetual world's watchdog and mirror, will increasingly be relevant in the quest to save a dying world.
(click image to view larger size)
|Once a Blue World (2011)|
|Our Reflection (2009)|
|Red Alert (2009)|
|Beautiful Dirt (2011)|
|Red Peeping Mermaid (2011)|
|Fuelled Tank (2011)|
|Leafy Affair (2011)|
|Radar Galactic Surfer (2011)|
|Algae Affair (2011)|
|Vein Travellers (2011)|
|Genie Gift (2010)|
|Sloppy Canvas (2011)|
"The Canal People" Series has been exhibited in:
- 3rd Photo Africa, Tarifa, Spain 
- "For a Sustainable World", 9th Rencontres de Bamako: Biennale Africaine de la Photographie, Bamako, Mali 
- "We Face Forward", Manchester Gallery, UK 
- "Bozar Expo (Tour & Taxi)" 9th Edition Bamako Encounters, Brussels, Belgium 
- "Cities in Transition", Marker, Art Dubai 
- "Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa", Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington DC, USA