Dele Adeyemo

Journal from Oworonshoki planning the screening of Black Horizon at Slum Party 09/11/19:

We’re here at the junction of Lone Street and Teledalase Street where the festival will take place in a few days. Hermes falling from the sky with Crocs on his heels, lands a backflip. He’s messing around entertaining everyone before showing me around. We’re in his neighbourhood with Valu and the guys looking at different spots to decide where to screen our film Black Horizon.

Valu the chief organiser of the festival, through his organisation Ennovated is coordinating the guys and the Oworo dance community ahead of the event they’ve very intentionally named, Slum Party. They know how the rest of Lagos views people from the slums and they don’t care. They know the weight of the term and they revel in it. This is a festival for their community on their own terms.

A few of us perch on the edge of a small kiosk pieced together from a discarded shipping container. With our backs pressed against the metal standing in a slither of shade from the overhanging roof sheltering us from the beating sun. We pose together for some Instagram selfies. Drinking spirits straight from the sachet, it’s 11am and the mood is starting to flow. Hermes is telling me that these guys might do the baddest shit at times but they’re good really. “That’s why we’re doing Slum Party”, he continues, “to give everybody something positive to focus their energy on!” Self knowingly slipping in and out of multiple languages and dialects for fun: Yoruba, Pidgin, African-American slang, he’s bringing a vibe to raise the mood of everyone. “We want to make evvvverybodyyyy happy!” he says, which the rest of the guys repeat enthusiastically.

He explains that young people in this part of Lagos have plenty of other influences demanding their attention. In lower Oworonshoki like many other informal precarious settlements of the city, in the space never fully occupied by the state, a mixture of informal and unofficial forms of social organisation appear. Their intention with Slum Party is to provide an alternative experience to the narrative regularly sensationalised in the local tabloids. Through the intergenerational festival of Slum Party, they demonstrate to the rest of the city that the community is made up of much more than the real and imagined tales of violent area boys, ritualistic killings, and forms of religious extortion that are often interwoven with organised crime and police corruption.

According to the Oba (King) of Oworonshoki, this site now surrounded by the sprawling megacity of Lagos began as an independent trading village hidden in the forest near the riverbank when it was settled by his great grandfather, His Royal Majesty Salami Ajumogijo who migrated from Ile-Ife – the spiritual home of the Yoruba – in the early 20th Century. Perhaps then, Oworonshoki is not an informal settlement at all, but a planned village outpost of an inland regime that was swallowed up by the modernist legacy of the colonial city. The biannual Slum Party, taking place at the change of the seasons acts therefore like a traditional village festival in a hyper urban context renewing the collective spirit and community identity.

I have a sip of something from a plastic cup that’s going round, perhaps a mixture of sachets like Super Cola and Orijin. My empty stomach rumbles as the spirit hits, causing a bubble of hot fumes to rise back up to my mouth right at the moment the guys tell me - it gives you power! The 50ml sachet of alcohol, a product designed for the airline industry to more compactly package and distribute drinks on board flights, is now a staple of the West African market for fast-moving consumer goods aimed at the very poorest. It’s strange how its efficiency of packaging, distribution and disposability translate seamlessly into this space. The guys say that half the city’s Okada riders, taxiing the bravest of commuters or most time pressed through Lagos’ dense slow-moving traffic, fuel their bodies in this way.

I arrived here by Okada. No Uber or Bolt driver could bring me this far into Oworonshoki’s poorest quarters. They can’t risk damaging a car that they’re renting at very steep rates. Very few vehicles can even manage the undulating unsurfaced road. The old battered yellow taxis with springy suspensions perhaps could but hardly any of them exist anymore since the introduction of the transport apps. It’s even a struggle on the bike, slowly bobbing and weaving over the mounds of earth and skirting round large muddy ponds in the road. With my feet planted flat on top of the exhaust pipes either side of the bike, I relax, trusting entirely in the biker’s skill. As he conveys us effortlessly across this offroad like terrain he maintains a self-confident calm fostered by the everyday experience of navigating the frenetic city with efficiency of movement.

Here at the end of Third Mainland Bridge, we’re on the frayed edges of Lagos’ infrastructure. i In addition to the fact that all Lagosians have to supply their own water by drilling boreholes on their property and use generators as a back to the temperamental light, here there is almost no infrastructures at all. The roads go unsurfaced and the storm drains that double as the city’s sewer system are left cut shallow and exposed to the street. The only visible state produced infrastructure are the concrete posts bearing the signs of the street names, a remnant of a cynical attempt to better regulate and tax the informal settlements of the poor.

Still, this site is better known as Power Base, affectionately named after a local kid who could always be found there hustling and joking. This is where the main stage for Slum Party will be. Right outside the local chief Alakoso’s house.

We choose a wall on the street perpendicular to Power Base junction on which to screen the film. Valu will arrange for his guys to paint it white, Hermes is already planning the next rehearsal for their live performance...


On the precarious watery edge of the lagoon of a megacity in West Africa, fringing the modernist urban plan in a community dispossessed by generations of colonial and neocolonial extractions, a young man performs a ritual wearing his late father’s suit. Encompassing movement, spiritual practice and popular culture, he orients himself in an environment devastated by a regime of spatial production that began centuries ago. Though surrounded by a landscape ruined by economic collapse, his dance is nonetheless a practice of worlding amongst the ruins of an ever-ongoing catastrophe, rearticulating within his community social relations that reimagine geography, space and time.  ii

Dancing in the footsteps of his ancestors, his form moves in reverence to those that left from this place and never returned, and those forever held in this structural geography of dispossession. His limbs elegantly communicate unspoken memories of the city, a laconic flow stringing together bodily inheritance with life experience – his movements archiving the long decline of a sprawling modernist African metropolis, built with the hubris of the rising petro-dollar, on top of the failing infrastructures of slavery and colonialism.

Scene #2: ROOFTOPS

On the island at the centre of the megacity on a rooftop in the former Business District, the young man rehearses with friends. With the backdrop of an aging skyline erected during the heydays of the young nation, they experiment in their creative partnership through improvisation. Violin, traffic, movement, dance all merge into one performance. He moves closer to the player to hear the delicate vibrations of the strings through the hum of engines and patter of horns distant and close by that reverberate across concrete flyovers and tower blocks. They and city are entranced in an invented ritual.

Later miles away, on another rooftop next to his best friend’s house he catches up with the rest of the guys. They share out Uncle’s birthday cake smoking and drinking Guinness from the bottle. When the moment’s right and without planning they turn to dancing, improvising moves instep like a polished dance crew....

Scene #3: SLUM PARTY

Outside the local chief’s house in what was once a village before it was swallowed up by the informal urban sprawl of the growing megacity, he finally has the opportunity to perform live for his community. Thronging the stage on all sides the neighbourhood gather in anticipation. The young man and the dance group he has choreographed begin to move their individual bodies as one rhythmic mass. It’s well after dark and their bodies are lit by streetlamps wired to run on private diesel generators. The community look on, gripped.
Themes: Premonitions of Bodies, Presencing the Erotic

Methods: Film, Performance


[1] Mbembe, On the Postcolony, 3.

[2] Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 6.

[i] For another piece that looks at infrastructures on the edge of the city, see: ARCHITECTURE AS AN INTERSECTION: MOBILITY IN DOWNTOWN KAMPALA by Thomas Aquilina

[ii] For another bodily exploration of identity, read and watch: WATER NO GET ENEMY: COUNTER-CARTOGRAPHIES OF DIASPORA by Remi Kuforiji

Dele Adeyemo is an architect, creative director and critical urban theorist. His creative and research practices interrogate the underlying drivers of architectural development and urbanisation, locating them in racialising logistical processes that orchestrate planetary patterns of life.

Most recently Dele has presented at the 2nd Edition of the Lagos Biennial with Black Horizon (2019), and the 5th Istanbul Design Biennial with The Cosmogony of (Racial) Capitalism (2020). Dele is a PhD candidate in the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London, and teaches an Architecture Design Studio with Ibiye Camp and Dámaso Randulfe at the Royal College of Art in London.

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