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Getting Into Nigeria

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S: Getting Into Nigeria

1: Getting into the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not easy. Obtaining an entrance visa is a maddeningly arbitrary and difficult exercise. It is not unheard of for border officials to ask, “What have you brought for me?” while slyly stalling with baggage searches and invented bureaucracy in the hope of making it worth a visitor’s while to offer a “tip” to speed things up. There are limited ports of entry, with Lagos as the most accessible but also the most troublesome. For a place with so much room to benefit from outside investment, influence, and assistance, it is surprising that visitors seem so unwelcome. Or perhaps the gatekeepers are reflecting their resentment over the reality of Nigeria's unmet ambitions. Getting into Nigeria is not easy. Emphathically, I mean. The car-jackings, kidnappings, robberies and resultant razor wire topped walls and guarded gates. The prevalence of malaria and cholera and scarcity of potable water. The lack of conscientious governance while there is growth of insurgency, persecution, and sectarian violence. Acrid urban air and neglect of the environment. Patrimony, nepotism, financial scams large and small. There is good reason it is a hard country to find on tourist maps. Getting into Nigeria is not easy. Poor roads, fear of attack and horrific motor accidents, limited transportation options, scarcity of maps, lack of tourist infrastructure or even appreciation for potential visitor attractions, unreliable police. All of this warrants pause on the part of those who seek to really see Nigeria. Yet, encounters with extraordinary ordinary people and amazing places are out there. These photographs are windows to a few of my encounters; glimpses of a few of the millions of Nigerian lives pursuing daily survival and dignity with characteristic resolve, grace, and ever-hopeful spirit. © 2011 Jeffrey P. De Joannis

2: Melody for the Durbar A musician from Maiduguri sweats his craft during the annual Abuja Festival at the Army Polo Grounds in the shadow of Aso Rock. F4; 1/500; 250mm; ISO 100 | Peddling Sugarcane Boys push wheelbarrow loads of stacked cane, shaved and cut to manageable snack portions. Occasional splashes of water make it shimmer, tempting those passing by. F22; 1/80; 70mm; ISO 100

5: Braided Hair Shades of indigo and hair variations seem infinite in Nigeria. F4; 1/100; 40mm; ISO 100 | W | What These Eyes Have Seen Cataracts don’t prevent this distinguished elderly man from taking in traditional musicians playing and dancers jangling their cowry shell leggings. Wearing a richly colored indigo riga, he taps his cane in time with the music and motion. F6; 1/60; 50mm; ISO 100

7: Delta Sky and Water From above, such tranquil stretches of quicksilver bear little correlation to human and ecological trauma that so often dominates the news headlines. F5;1/250; 32mm; ISO 400

9: "You Are Welcome" In a rural Kano village, children and teens are surprised to encounter Bature. It is a wonderful thing to feel their curiosity, warmth, and excitement. F4.5; 1/350; 70mm; ISO 100 | Kanuri Calabashes There must be no people more vibrantly, colorfully attired than the Kanuri. The women are distinctive with nose and ear rings as they drive donkey trains, herd goats, and do other “mens” tasks. It is common to see calabash stacks nearly as tall as the women balancing them in Yobe and Borno. F4.5; 1/1600; 70mm; ISO 100

10: Firewalker In the Mid-belt and North, open paved areas serve as valuable drying racks for millet, maize, peppers, and other crops. Much of it is then kept invarious traditional storage vessels. (Kaduna) F5.6; 1/640; 70mm; ISO 100 | (next page) Kurmi Buzz The urban density of people, population, traffic and architecture reaches extremes approaching Kurmi Market in the heart of the Old City, Kano. F4.5; 1/1250; 70mm; ISO 200

13: ) Playtime Lucky trio escapes chores for the moment at Kofar Mata Dye Pits where indigo has been in fashion for 500 years. F4.5; 1/100; 17mm; ISO 200

14: While You Foo-ell Railroad crossings and petrol stations allow good opportunities for the locals to do business with travelers. It is always girls selling ground nuts (aka peanuts). They cluster around the car windows at this Maiduguri station and one gets a sale. F4; 1/2000; 40mm; ISO 160 | Oil Nation Little gasoline is refined within the country compared to crude extracted. Fuel is subsidized and a flat sale price is mandated nationwide. The actual price varies according to local realties, and how the pumper and customer size each other up. We get a reasonable rate near the state border between western Plateau and Bauchi. F5; 1/1250; 85mm; ISO 800

16: I Am Seeing You A meeting at the borehole in a small village in the Northwest. She fetches water today, and tomorrow. Does she wonder about her future beyond that? I wonder for her. F4.5; 1/125; 70mm; ISO 160 | Anvils Above Nigeria Vaguely reminiscent of Hubble Telescope captures of the Eagle Nebulae, the skies are alive as the end of rainy season draws near. F8; 1/640; ISO 200

18: Camelus Dromedarius North of the lush Niger and Benue River valleys, the mix of boulder formations, plateau, grassland, open woods, and arid plain fills the stretch between Mid-belt and Sahel. It is suitable for horses, donkeys, livestock, and camels too. (Borno state) F7.1; 1/1250; 70mm; ISO 200 | The Classroom On the outskirts of Maiduguri, a few meters provides the obligatory separation of boys and girls at school. This room survived burning by Boko Haram during the 2009 uprising. F2.8; 1/160; 17mm; ISO 400

20: Do You Take This Calabash... A pre-wedding ritual involves symbolic calabash exchange from woman to man. F8; 1/320; 220mm; ISO 100 | Yes, With Pepper Army wives prepare fresh croaker, slice potatoes, and sauté onions with hot chilis around the huge circular grill. The Mogadishu Barracks fish stand and surrounding market is on the outer edge of Abuja, but feels much further away. I can't help wonder, were any of these women caught in the senseless bomb attack on New Years Eve 2010? F2.8; 1/10; ISO 800

22: Mixed Cargo Livestock, water and fuel are primary commodities in the far northeast. There is customarily no requirement to match cargo load to transit vessel. What must fit, will fit. F5; 1/2000; 60mm; ISO 200 | Look both ways A moment, in a day, of two lives among a million in Maiduguri, as a sister guards her sibling through the ubiquitous roadway snarl. F4.5; 1/1000; 70mm; ISO 200

24: Womens’ Work This girl is lucky because there is a well so close to her family’s compound in a remote rural Sokoto village. For most of the millions of lives in Nigeria, this day and the next revolves around access to water and firewood. F13; 1/250; 70mm; ISO 160 | At the Borehole A boy is part of the excited village throng welcoming American visitors. The visit is to check the status of a borehole providing water to the remote community. It was implemented via US Army civil affairs from US Africa Command. F9;1/125; 70mm; ISO 160

26: My Black and White Rams This Fulani herder watches over the herd in mid-day heat in northern Sokoto state. F4.5; 1/1250; 40mm; ISO 160

28: (previous page) Life Under Lagos The coastal shantytowns perched above the waters of Lagos seem a different world from the soaring bridges, industrial complexes, highways, skyscrapers, retail, hotels and legacy colonial style compounds. F2.2; 1/1000; 50mm; ISO 400 | Hausa Origins Daura, on the border of Niger, is where the 7 Hausa Kingdoms started, according to oral tradition. A gateway to the Emir’s palace has reliefs depicting the fateful slaying of the giant snake at the Kusugu Well, some 500 or 1000 years ago. F7.1; 1/125; 35mm; ISO 125 | We sit spellbound in an antechamber with the Emir's Historian. Waning afternoon light filters through goassamer curtains, and centuries of pre-Daura legend comes alive. | F4.5; 1/60; 70mm; ISO 400

29: Lagos Perhaps nothing else says "Lagos" like the omnipresent vintage yellow taxi-buses. F11; 1/1000; 24mm; ISO 3200

30: On the Fence A Red Patus Monkey in Yankari Game Reserve. The presence of fencing in the flagship of Nigeria’s nature parks says much about the state of wildlife and conservation in the country. The fact that roughly 1 in 6 Africans are Nigerian leaves little breathing room for fauna and flora. (Bauchi state) F4; 1/1600; 300mm; ISO 320

33: Around Usman Dam on a Sunday Morning It takes 4 hours to mountain bike around the reservoir that lies just northwest of Abuja. On Sundays there is an intermittent accompanying soundtrack via strident church singing and children happily shrieking, Oyyyyiiii-bo, upon sighting foreigners. Yosemite-like granite domes are common terrain in the Mid-belt. They form over time as layers of rock flake off symmetrically. F11; 1/200; 50mm; ISO 400

34: Dancing With Bulls Animals are regularly packed into all manner of vehicles, even carried on motorcycles, often with an eclectic accompaniment of goods and people. An investigative stop between Jalingo and Yola reveals the techniques for “coaxing” animals onboard. This young male was only ghd first of two to be crammed into the hatchback, with just enough room for a driver and passenger. A degree of hogtying guards against a disastrous in-vehicle melee. F9; 1/500; 24mm; ISO 400 | Shadow Early morning in the city of Katsina. F8; 1/320; 65mm; ISO 200

36: Out to Pasture Past the North Palace Gate The king’s palace represents the height of local stone craftsmanship in the mountain stronghold of Sukur, a place totally isolated until colonial discovery circa 1930. A youth takes his animals past structures that have changed little over the past 300-plus years. (Adamawa state) F10; 1/125; 28mm; ISO 100

37: Delicious Colors for Sale I’ve never seen food so vivid and appealingly as at the small farmers market along the road entering Biu, September season, near Borno’s border with Gombe. F10; 1/125; 28mm; ISO 100

39: Made in the Shade After the first defensive gate of the Sukur kingdom, there is a long open ridge to the second gate. The boys make grass hats in the best shaded spot in between. F16; 1/100; 24mm; ISO 400 | You Are Strange and Unexpected Perhaps no one is too young for chores. Who is leading whom, here in the Mandara Mountains? F14; 1/160; 24mm; ISO 400

41: Echoes Kano is the oldest city in West Africa. Dala Hill is the site of its founding, and today offers an unsurpassed view of the impressive but smog layered sprawl. F8; 1/200; 24mm; ISO 200 | Abbey Road Butchering a ram is a Muslim custom for Eid celebration. Preparations are being made on a large scale in the palace kitchen of the Kano Emir’s compound the day before the Durbar. F8; 1/800; ISO 200

42: Purple and Silver Horsemen Riders in every imaginable motif and color scheme represent their clans at the epic scale Durbar of Kano. F5.6; 1/160;140mm; ISO 200 | Awaiting an Audience There is a long line of foreign officials and local elites in palace hallways and antechambers waiting the chance at a meeting with the Emir during the Kano Durbar festival. F3.5; 1/320; ISO 400

43: Courtyard Tilt The core of the Durbar is a pageantry-rich, dramatization of fealty to the local Emir by the warriors of the upper class. The crescendo is each clan galloping full tilt towards the Emir with weapons brandished before wheeling at the last moment to salute him. Traditional Northern societal order is essentially the Feudal System. It might be argued that this anachronism is intact today. Ironically, the Durbar is a recent tradition. The British colonials borrowed it from the Raj. F4;1/160;24mm; ISO 200

44: The Peacemaker A diverse group of chimpanzees call the Afi Drill Sanctuary home. Silver-toned Pablo is calm and unhurried. He's a proactive, harmonious influence among often aggressive, competitive peers. F4; 1/60; 105mm; ISO 320 | Drills (far left) are the mainstay of Afi. In January 2011, the Sanctuary took in a baby gorilla that had been caught in a wire snare. | Misty Mountain Hop Low lying mist clings to the Afi massif and provides some sun protection for the surrounding 20-plus villages of Boki-speaking people in northern Cross River state. F16; 1/250; 24mm; ISO 320

46: Storm Over Lake Chad Colors, smell, wind and pregnant power exhilarate the senses beyond description. F6.3; 1/640; 40mm; ISO 400

47: In From the Storm Fishermen race to shore from one of countless waterways left by diminishing Lake Chad. F5.6; 1/125; 24mm; ISO 1000 | Chased Families of the fisherman grab what minnow catch they can from the boats and run for shelter from the sideways wind and rain. F5.6; 1/125; 24mm; ISO 1000

48: Dyer Indigo dying families have been in business at the Kano dye pits for over 500 years. F6.3; 1/200; 80mm; ISO 200

49: Home From the Mosque Streets in Kano are especially crowded after morning prayer. Such a troupe of youngsters in tow obtains passage through the traffic not normally given. F7.1; 1/640; 96mm; ISO 200

50: Vogue She could be a magazine cover model but she sells roasted corn by the roadside in Niger state. F4; 1/125; 60mm; ISO 200 | Electric Disco Guards Soldiers in distinctive uniforms traditionally stood watch at city gates and walls. In a few places like Zaria, the tradition continues even today. More sobering, medieval weapons still figure prominently in communal violence. F4; 1/500; 300mm; ISO 100

52: Gobarau Minaret Built of sunbaked clay and mud in the 14th century, this tower was the highest structure in early Katsina. It served as both the central mosque and a defensive watchtower. F7.1; 1/160; 20mm; ISO 160 | Prime Spot Fiercely bright eyes and indeterminate age. She has carved out a choice sidewalk sales spot in the busy area between Old City and city center in Kano. F5.6; 1/100; 40mm; ISO 250

54: Noman Abinci “Farming.” Carrying his fartanya in the normal over-shoulder manner, this Katsina farmer proudly points out his neatly planted fields. The farm is within a few kilometers of Niger. Managed plots of trees are common compliments to farms in the Katsina region; they serve as barriers versus erosion and blowing sand. F13; 1/125; 60mm;ISO 100 | The Sandman Cometh Some who live in the shantytowns perched above the harbor in Lagos are sand gatherers; they pole out beyond the mainland-to-island bridge and dive for sand. When the boat is fully loaded, they sell it at shore's edge to construction companies. F4; 1/1000; 50mm; ISO 400

56: Butchers' Market North Kano city. F4; 1/200; 45mm; ISO 200

57: Have Chickens, Will Travel Navigating the mud with a mobile chicken coop after rain on the edge of Lake Chad near Baga. F5; 1/250; 24mm; ISO 640 | Young herder Gurara Falls in Niger state. F9; 1/100; 32mm; ISO 200

59: Falling Water Wondrous natural places in Nigeria elude appreciative visitors because of the difficulties inherent in traveling and overall perception of the country as tourist-unfriendly. Plateau state drains into Nasarawa state here via Farin Ruwa, one of the highest waterfalls in Africa that is somehow left off such lists. Nevertheless, natural environments in Nigeria are as diverse as they are stunning. | (back cover) Abuja Commute The capital is garroted in terms of inflow and outflow of the working class. This majority makes the city run but can’t afford to live within it. The deficiency of arteries to outlying settlements means a glut of packed buses and cars backed up for hours each day. With hallmark Nigerian grace, she resigns herself to this gauntlet, perhaps even finding a mental refuge. F4; 1/640; 105mm; ISO 160

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Jeff DeJoannis
  • By: Jeff D.
  • Joined: over 5 years ago
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  • Title: Getting Into Nigeria
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  • Published: over 5 years ago

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