A Portrait of Africa’s Largest City

Akintunde Akinleye is the only Nigerian photojournalist to have won a World Press Photo prize, in 2007. But the following slideshow, courtesy of the New York Times, shows that his prestigious award is well deserved. It presents a complex and dynamic view of the continent’s largest metropolis, the 20-million strong city of Lagos, Nigeria.

The exhibition is called “Each Passing Day” (it opened at Red Door Gallery in Lagos on April 19, the photographer’s birthday), and its title connotes the marking of time, of a steady eye bearing witness to a nation’s struggle for political stability while it endures the growing pains of rapid urbanization. The work is even more poignant when you consider that Mr. Akinleye’s career spans a particular time in Nigeria’s postcolonial history — the country’s re-establishment of republican government in 1999, and the recent election of a former dictator as its president-elect.

“One of my missions is not just to make a career in photojournalism”, Mr. Akinleye said from his home in Lagos. “My mission is actually to do history, to put it in perspective, so that distortion can be reduced to its barest minimum”.

He was 11 when his mother gave him his first camera after she noticed he had a penchant for drawing pictures in the sand. Years later, what began as a boyhood hobby did not evolve into a full-fledged career goal until Mr. Akinleye enrolled in college. But having missed the application deadline for journalism courses, he majored in social studies instead.

“I looked at all sorts of social problems — crime, how Europe underdeveloped Africa, how the world is separated into the first, second, and third world”, he said. “This gave me a wider passage, and a very solid background for me to do journalism”.

Click the hyperlink to get a glimpse of everyday life in one of the world’s biggest communities. As Nigeria becomes a rapidly emerging economic power, its dominant city will no doubt earn increased attention as a major commercial and cultural hub (it always has the second largest film industry by production after Bollywood). There is a lot of creative potential just waiting to be unleashed.

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