I desperately wanted to get in on a photography challenge with poverty as its theme, so I got my Mom's phone (Sony D750i) and headed for the streets outside my office building (valued at billions of Naira) in search of signs of poverty. Strange, uh? But that's Lagos for you, no-one and no part of this city - however beautiful and affluent - is immune from the effects of poverty, unemployment and decay. That's why it's commonplace to see the Mallam's shop (the local cornershop) and the "Ogogoro" Seller's kiosk on the same street as some of the swankiest houses on the "Island"; or the building where I work, with its plush offices and a reputation of being the largest building in West Africa situated bang in the middle of the dirtiest, most populous and most dangerous market in the country; or the latest Range Rovers, Mercs and BMWs driving out of our building into a street filled with beggars, hawkers and dreaded "area boys". It's such a shame.
Which brings me to this lovely lady here. I was out in search of the stereotypical malnourished beggar to convey an obvious picture of poverty, but couldn't find anything drastic enough. Even the blind woman who used to beg for alms outside our building was no where to be found. I spent most of my lunch break looking for a suitable subject - I was even tempted into going to one of the shanty towns but that would have been too risky for a lone young woman armed with only a camera phone and a mini-skirt. I guess the Governor's recent attempts at giving Lagos Island a facelift has been somewhat successful. I had almost given up when I spotted a healthy looking little boy dressed in khaki shorts and a relatively new rugby shirt begging this lady for some money. She seemed to be more in need of money than he was!
And that's where the idea for this picture, sometimes we become so insensitive to the poor among us it takes something like a challenge to bring them to mind. Even when the word poverty comes to mind the picture we have is that of the hungry, emaciated child wasting away in some war-torn country or arid land. I'm not saying that the suffering in such places is not heart wrenching, but what about those people around us? I know this picture is more suited to a challenge on enterprise than poverty but, you know what? This lady had been out in the burning sun all day and her profit at the end of it all the sale of those bananas would probably be in the range of $2 - $5. Bet you she has kids and, probably brothers and sisters to take care of. I can only hope that her husband supports her and isn't the type to spend all her hard-earned money on "Ogogoro". That's the story of some of the traders in the market near my office - working all day trying to make ends meet, going home to overcrowded living quarters and never having enough. if that isn't poverty, i don't know what else is.
Simply put, my point is you don't have to go to Darfur to find poverty, it's all around us - whether we're in Lagos, London or Manhattan. You only have to be sensitive to the needy around you and you'll find a suitable subject: both for a photography challenge and some kindness.
In case you were wondering - "Ogogoro" is our local blend of gin or schnapps.
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