Monday, October 22, 2012

The 324th good thing about Lagos: artists focusing on the issue of water

Last spring I went to a very interesting and unusual musical performance and photography and art exhibit which had been travelling to many venues in the country.  It was titled "Water No Get Enemy" after a famous Fela Kuti song.  Fela is probably the most famous Nigerian musical performer and was a pioneer of Afrobeat music.  But the exhibit really didn't have anything to do with him -- they just used the title of his song as a title and theme.  The organizers of this exhibition wanted to generate a consciousness about water and the problems of water supply and usage now and in the future.  The availability of a clean water supply is a huge problem in Nigeria, especially in the overpopulated metropolis of Lagos.  The infrastructure is not there to supply many in the population with running water at all -- many people are forced to buy jerry cans of water from sellers on the streets who pull them loaded in trailers.  And, of course, that water is just for cleaning.  We all have to buy purified water for drinking and cooking.  Many Nigerians buy plastic bags of water for drinking, while those with more means buy water in bottles, large and small.  Of course, this creates a huge increase of waste from all these bottles too.  Anyway, they had this exhibit of art with water as the focus and the concert I attended  was really wonderful.  It featured a Dutch pianist, Marcel Worms, who chose piano works of many styles and periods, that were composed with water as an inspiration.  He performed these works while a slide show of water photos were scrolling on a nearby screen.  It wasn't a super high-tech display -- that doesn't happen much in Lagos -- but it was still effective.  He spoke a bit to help interpret the works he would play.


Of course, I live a life of privilege in Lagos, but we still have issues with water.  Bad plumbing causes many breaks and ensuing floods.  Our water out of the tap is often brownish or heavily chlorinated, so I sometimes cringe to even wash with it.  And now and then, often with no explanation, we have no water coming out of the taps at all.  But for the most part, we have bottled water deliveries that take care of our need for purified water and I can use that for a sponge bath if my faucets are dry.  We are blessed to be spared the problems that many of the Nigerian poor deal with daily.  I remember when I was doing interviews for the AWC scholarship program and a college student was telling about the overcrowding in the hostel she lived in (what we in the States refer to as a dorm room).  She talked about how often the other girls in her room would use her bucket.  This bucket of water was what she used to wash with each day.  I'm sure college students in the USA would have a very difficult time adapting to those living conditions.  And I know in rural areas access to clean water is often a very troublesome issue.  I know it takes more than artists raising consciousness to deal with these issues.  I hope government officials are watching and will start working to address these challenges.

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