In 2013, I spent three weeks in Ikakumo, a small village in south-western Nigeria. I was invited by the linguist Sophie Salffner from London’s School of Oriental and African Studies to run a photography school as part of her language documentation project. One of the Saturdays I accompanied my students to the river where they do their weekly laundry, bathe, make fire, cook rice and yam, gather and crack kola nuts, try catching fish and rabbits, swim, fight and play till they run out of steam. I observed the freedom the boys don’t seem to have in the village, the happiness and the beauty of their adolescent relationships.
Unlike boys, girls do not go to the river. They help their families, often instead of their school homework. ‘You’ve got to grow a thicker skin’, many of us hear all too often. Horrible news pour from everywhere and so we empathise in small dozes, immunise ourselves and carry on. Fortunately, these Nigerian girls do not live in the north-east where abductions take place. I am so grateful to have met them. Now when I feel powerless and angry at what is going on in the world, I look at their faces and remind myself that the news are about real people.
Students’ work was showed in SOAS during the Endangered Language Week, at PICS Festival at Rich Mix and at the West African Linguistics Conference at the University of Ibadan, before returning to Irepodun Comprehensive High School in Ikakumo. Some of the photographs can be viewed here and the Exhibition catalog can be downloaded via this link.