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The Cinematic Diorama of Victor Adewale

TJ Benson

If reality is the speed between thought and actualization, Lagos exists in fast-forward.Time works differently here, in fact there are different times depending on which strand of Lagos you inhabit.The multi-facedness of the city and the consequential vicissitudes has been celebrated in text, moving pictures and song for over a century. This makes the layman’s definition of photography, to capture a moment on camera, futile. For how does one ‘capture’ this tangible and intangible city?

John Berger insists that while photography’s raw materials include light and time (again what a tempestuous volatile thing, time), the image would still result in ‘unforeseeable consequences.’ There are few artists I have met with a knack for being open to the ‘unforeseen’ in their practice as Victor Adewale. This has led him to create the most evocative images of Lagos life, far apart from the trends set and rewarded by the West. Perhaps this is because he is an artist who exists within his own time.

ln response to Márọkọ,́ he offers a suite of images made of another Lagos, the transient everyday life of the people of Takwa Bay where some of the early evacuees of Márọkọ́ fled to. Each image highlights movement, whether it’s the image of boys swimming back to the shores of this much fabled, government contested land or the large shoreline being lapped up by the sea as the sun sets. The images are lush with color, sometimes solemn, never still. If philosophy is the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence, I can only wonder how much Adewale’s undergraduate degree influences his image-making today.

What I know for certain is that his work, (much like few of the masters like Sunmi-Smart Cole who rose up to the challenge of photographing Lagos), doesn’t attempt to capture it or find stillness as the city ebbs in and out of perceived reality. Rather, he offers a cinematic diorama of a vibrant people in the throes of their lives, beating along and beating against the flow of their own Lagos, always reaching for land


TJ Benson is a Nigerian writer and visual artist whose work explores the body in the context of memory, African Spirituality, migration, utopia and the unconscious self. His work has been exhibited and published in several journals like Harvard’s Transition Magazine, Iskanchi, Jalada, SSDA Migrations, Catapult, Bakwa Magazine and shortlisted for awards. His Saraba Manuscript Prize shortlisted Africanfuturist collection of short stories ‘We Won’t Fade into Darkness’ was published by Parresia in 2018.

His debut novel ‘The Madhouse’ was published in 2021 by Masobe Books and Penguin Random House SA and his second novel ‘People Live Here’ was published in June 2022. He is a beneficiary of the 2020 Caine Prize Editorial Workshop mentorship program and his short story ‘Please, Please’ appears in the recent AKO Caine Prize anthology ‘A Mind to Silence and other Short Stories’ published by Cassava books in 2022. He has facilitated writing workshops, more recently teaching a class on magical realism and surrealism within the context of African literature for Lolwe Magazine and an Inkubator workshop for Short Story Day Africa. He has attended residencies in Ebedi Nigeria, Moniack Mhor Scotland, Art Omi New York and is a University of Iowa International Writing Program Fellow. He currently lives in an apartment full of plants and is in the danger of becoming a cat person



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