Makoko or the world we don’t see

This week at the Romanian Development Camp, Romanian photographer Petrut Calinescu presented a special exhibition about Makoko.

Makoko is a 200-year-old fishing village built on the water bank of Lagos Lagoon in Nigeria. Lagos has recently become one of Nigeria’s economic centers and Africa’s largest city (20 million inhabitants). Makoko and its life “on” water, an inch away from the skyscrapers that keep cropping up in Ykoki (business center), has remained untouched by the economic boom around it. Makoko has a population of about 100 000, mostly fishermen from Benin and Togo.

The Nigerian government refuses to officially recognize the legitimacy of Makoko and will not provide any public services. There is no running water, electricity, sewage system, public schools or hospitals. Consequently, Makoko has created a parallel system in order to survive and manage itself.

Makoko is located in an area of Lagos that presents great interest for real estate businesses; it could be filled with sand, turned into land and sold to the wealthy. This is how Banana Island came into existence. It is situated on the opposite side of the lagoon, a kilometre away from Makoko, where fishermen claim the best fish is. According to Forbes.Com, a 3-room apartment costs 2 millions dollars and the land for a house between 4 and 6 million dollars. After similar cases in 2005, 2010 and 2012, in an attempt to evict and clean Makoko up, police troops armed as if for war asked the entire population to leave the area in 72 hours. Many houses were destroyed and then burnt to the ground, and thousands of people were left homeless. Many of them still live there, their boat being their bed and roof. The locals have reacted, trying to stop the demolition. One of the leaders was shot dead and other people were wounded. The locals’ determination to face the armed police and the pressure of the NGOs has made authorities bring the demolition to a halt. At least for now.

Have a look at the photo gallery and read the whole story of Makoko here!

©photo and text Petrut Calinescu