Friday, September 04, 2009

The 179th good thing about Lagos: A weekend trip to Badagry

I was only back in Lagos for 2 days before I left for a weekend Field Society trip to Badagry, an outing that I had been wanting to take since I first moved to Lagos. Badagry was a slave port from the 16th to the 19th centuries and so there is some interesting history there. Though it is accessible by road -- it's almost to the border with Togo -- it's a much quicker trip by boat, so our trip organizer arranged for boats for our travel, which was very convenient. Badagry is still in Lagos State, and it was about an hour and a half trip. We had 16 people on the tour with 2 boats and each boat had a guard with machine gun. The guards had a quiet trip, as we had no problems at all and most of the time in Badagry they just stayed at the hotel complex. Here's a photo of us on the boat right before our departure at noon last Friday.

We stayed at the Lagos State VIP chalets. The complex had its own dock on the creek that we had traveled to get to Badagry -- the creek is an inland waterway that runs on the other side of the narrow peninsula going parallel to the Atlantic Ocean coastline (does that make sense?). Each of these chalets was divided into 2 suites, each with a bedroom, living area and bathroom. The hotel had been described as about a half star hotel, but I didn't think it was that bad. It was nothing fancy, but was clean and they turned on the power at night, and it had running water.

I'm going to write a separate post for each day on this trip -- I took lots of pictures. After checking into the hotel on Friday, we took the van our tour guide arranged to downtown Badagry where the folk festival performances were taking place that afternoon. We had seats under the tent with the chiefs -- being the only white people in town guarantees VIP status.

We sat in the row right behind this row of chiefs. The head oba, the Akran of Badagry, was in the middle and all the performers would come and bow to him before and/or after their performances.

There was music and dancing...

The audience would periodically join the performers and everyone loved it when one of our group -- an oyibo -- went out and joined the celebration. She became the most photographed performer in the whole festival that day and she was recognized and hailed by the residents during the rest of our visit.

Then the masquerade began: Somebody said that these costumes that look like haystacks were only found in Badagry masquerades.

There was this masquerader with this really big draped costume. It was kind of cool (to watch, I mean -- for him it had to be awfully hot in there!).

I thought it was kind of funny that under this elaborate costume, the dancer was wearing Nike tennis shoes.

There were observers under tents around the performance area and also around the nearby buildings.

After the festival, we were given an audience with the Akran of Badagry, the head chief. We took off our shoes before entering the humble palace.

The Akran put his signature on a certificate which he presented to each of us, declaring us "Badagry Pilgrims." So, if you see a B.P. after my name in the future, you'll know what it signifies.

After we left the palace, we had a little time to observe the after-festival activity on the street before we went back to the hotel:

We appreciated the beauty of this old building next to the palace.

There were mothers with babies
and children dancing to the music still playing from the festival speakers.

Most of the children loved having their picture taken. Sometimes they would make stand soberly when photographed, other times they would clown around and make faces.

They always loved seeing themselves in the camera's screen.

There were lots of passersby, often with loads balanced on their heads.

This little girl saw me taking pictures of people carrying things on their heads and she grabbed a box from the street and walked by me deliberately, looking back to make sure I was catching her picture.

That evening we attended the festival "gala" dinner which was not really very "gala," but we enjoyed getting to know the other B.P.s and participating in a different kind of cultural experience. The dinner was on typical Nigerian standard time -- with food served almost 2 hours later than scheduled. The speeches were too long and the comedian was untelligible, the food was barely edible -- but we enjoyed being there and visiting with new friends and reviewing our interesting afternoon in Badagry.

1 comment:

ifeanyi said...

badagry my city, i guess your trip educated you a lot. but, were you briefed about the history of badagry?