Welcome To Lagos Review: Looking Up In The Dumps

April 15, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

WELCOME TO LAGOS: Thursday 15th April, BBC2, 9pm ALERT ME

‘You have to be wise here…you’re going to teach people things they don’t know’. The closing words of Gabriel, an honourable and selfless family man living on one of Lagos’ many rubbish dumps, captures perfectly much of what Welcome To Lagos shows us.

Following the exploits of various Nigerians forced to scavenge and inhabit rubbish tips, we see how from the bare bones of a makeshift, poverty-stricken existence – real morals, social structure and respect is formed with alarming solidarity and strength. You won’t see many of these people’s principles in any family orientated community in Britain, or, for that matter, anywhere else.

From a hole in the ground, the likes of Gabriel, and hundreds of others, have formed a community of barbers, butchers, shops, cafes, and houses: all makeshift, but entirely sufficient. Despite all of these inhabitants relying solely on what tumbles out of rubbish trucks, business is conducted civilly and in excellent humour. Life is good amongst all the discarded tyres, clothes, and waste. I’m almost jealous.

I watched in awe as things that we cannot manage in our own society function blissfully in Lagos dump culture. Someone has been caught stealing, so the counsel that the tip set up kicks into action. There is a head chairman – who’s been a scavenger since he was a boy. Instead of the beating or dispute you might see in other culture – the man is calmly charged, convicted of theft, and marched off the premises. He must not return.

The fact that the dump is a stone’s throw from the official Nigerian Government buildings is lost on the dwellers. It needn’t matter – they’re fine on their own. They carry on with their pleasant lives as the business city sector struggle through traffic. The power in central Lagos goes off every night. On the dump – they have their own generators.

The programme is showing how we as humans have evolved into an urban race without even realising it, and the ability to adapt in places such as Lagos is not only commendable, but shocking. Gabriel has managed to fashion a life, and a wonderful family, simply from scavenging. He works for months on end to sell discarded rubbish, just so he can provide for his one year old daughter’s birthday.

The ambition of these people is indeed fantastic. If they’re not committed family men, then they’re scavenging just to go into the city to cash in on studio time for their budding music careers, like Eric. One of the more rousing moments of Welcome to Lagos is when the whole dump has a whip round and manages to raise thousands of pounds to get this wannabe rapper off a charge of assault. It is camaraderie like this that makes Welcome to Lagos especially uplifting.