Nuptials in Nigeria [Part II: First Impressions]// Adventures of a Destination Wedding Photographer

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“Nuptials in Nigeria” is a series of first accounts from an American photographer and inspiration/travel writer Travis Levius.   This was his 1st time on the African continent to photograph an exciting 2-day destination wedding in Lagos, Nigeria. 

IMG_8461via: Instagram, @misterlevius

I felt saved from my unnerving Lagos airport experience once I met my gracious host- the bride’s older brother- outside the terminal. For most, an hour-long ride from any airport doesn’t exactly elicit excitement…but oh my.

THE THRILL RIDE

Sleep was scarce on the 11-hour red-eye flight from New York City, but my 1st ride through mainland Lagos trumped all underlying bits of fatigue. Under the temperate morning sun, I remember passing by ripe coconut trees and dense shrubbery; roaming, lean chickens; dated and at times derelict low-rise homes and buildings; people walking without the presence of sidewalks (there were open-faced irrigation ditches along the side road, seen throughout the city, that people would simply walk alongside). Just 10 minutes into my ride, what I expected from this modern African megalopolis of 20+ million was quite different from reality.

The ride became more fascinating once we got on Lagos’s infamous highways. I’ve already heard about the bad traffic, which doesn’t mean much to me as I lived in Atlanta. What people did not tell me were the throngs of men and women who would walk/run across the busy highways as if they were city streets…meter-high cement partitions in their path and all. You should have seen the initial shock on my face, trying to imagine Atlanta pedestrians crossing six lanes of two-way traffic on I-85. Unfathomable. The irony: there’s plenty of well-placed pedestrian bridges along the highway that people could use to hop sides safely. I’m guessing the stairs and extra walk to the bridges proved too inconvenient for some?

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Traffic jams proved advantageous for the on-foot entrepreneurs, selling anything from fruit to cell phone chargers. I also found the occasional clusters of beggars walking in between cars or sitting in the middle of the partitions. The city’s status as the land of the “haves and the have-nots” was quite clear just an hour into my visit.

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The people who quip, “If you can drive in New York, you can drive anywhere” have clearly never been in Lagos. Going from Point A to B here is full of close-calls, abrupt lane changing and widely ignored driving rules. Pedestrian right-of-way in Lagos is an imaginary idea; walkers simply get out-the-way. What’s also worth a mention: people honk for everything here.

Most Amusing, Prevalent Signs Seen in the City

(some which are spray-painted on buildings):

1. Please Do Not Urinate Here

2. This House is NOT for Sale (huh?!)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

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Lagos felt like everything, everywhere. To a Westerner on the road, it looked like the whole city was a bit distressed- dusty & chasm-dotted roads, hefty pollution, rough infrastructure- but there is beauty in its authenticity, especially when backed by lush coconut trees and exotic birds flying over the city.

There are cities that transform themselves into destinations for tourists and visitors, and there are cities that seem to exist just for its inhabitants. Lagos is most definitely the latter.  There’s a “this is the way we live and we’re not faking for anyone” vibe throughout my drive-by observations. And I loved it.

 

SETTLING IN

I finally arrived at my host family’s gated home in the Surulere neighborhood, feeling like I just got off a roller coaster from all the varied sights through the city. They welcomed me with open arms and made sure I wanted for nothing. The southern hospitality Americans know have nothing on southern Nigerian hospitality. For a nation that gets such a bad rep, I would absolutely return to Nigeria for the awesome and kind people I met throughout my week-long trip.

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My Host Family! (top) The bride's brother and his wife;
(bottom) Their 7-year old son

At this time, I had two days until I needed to photograph the first wedding ceremony- a traditional Yoruba wedding (or “engagement”), followed by the grand Western-style wedding two days after. New side of the world, new adventures, new cultural wedding experience as a photographer; ever up for a challenge, I was ready to capture the nuptials in this most dynamic (and challenging) African city.

 

The Premiere of the Traditional Nigerian Wedding Story/Images Appear in Part III!

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