PAPA Lab Lagos Nigeria 2009


PAPAlab Lagos Nigeria 7 - 28 September 2009

Hosted by the African Artists' Foundation. A final exhibition entitled Initial Patterns was held on 25 September 2009 at the African Artists' Foundation. PAPAlab Lagos worked with a mixed group of ten artists and photojournalists from Lagos, including: Andrew Esiebo, Adolphus Opara, Babasola Bamiro Eremina Jumbo Toye Gbade, Tuoyo Omagba, Israel Ophori, Folarin Shasanya, Zemaye Okediji and Godswill Ayemoba. With the support of Mondriaan Fund and the Netherlands Embassy in Abuja Nigeria.


Everything that doesn't work in Lagos - and that is a lot - is made operative by the people themselves. The shopkeepers and craftsmen are mobile: if you want to buy bread, have your trousers repaired or need a haircut, you just walk outside and the vendors and craftsmen circle around you. As the electricity works only ten or twenty per cent of the time and brown water pours from the taps, the electricity and the water supply are made mobile too. If you want to work on one of your blogs, you go out into the street to find a cart with jerry cans filled with diesel. you start your generator, get your computer running and off you go. If you want to wash yourself, get the boy from the streets to fill up the water container in your house. Take a bucket of water from the container to your bathroom and indulge yourself in throwing the fresh water over your body with a saucepan.

How the water system works

There are taps in some of the houses but the water that comes out is dark brown. 'In need of water? Find the boy who bought it from people who have drilled a well in their garden'. Water seller is a typical newcomers' job.
14 Sept 2009, Israel Ophori

Mobile groundnuts

The mobile shopkeepers and craftsmen look so welldressed and clean. How do they do that? 'This is a girl who is supposed to be in school but is out on the streets selling groundnuts for a living due to the economic hardship in the country'.
09 Sept 09 2009, Tuoyo Omagba

Independent energy

The barber uses two small generators to ensure his business goes uninterrupted by power failures. Generators are one of Nigeria's main exports. Despite the government's failure to assure electricity, users of generators seem to enjoy their 'energy independence'.
09 Nov 2010, Andrew Esiebo

Walking manicurist

Receive the service in the street or invite the craftsman into your home. 'Northern Nigerians doing pedicures and manicures without knowing the danger of distributing the HIV virus as a result of using unsterilised equipment'.
Unpublished 2011, Israel Ophori


We found many humorous acronyms that people have invented to cope in life when none of the official institutes do their jobs properly. The people turn the letters of the abbreviation into acronyms that take the piss out of these malfunctioning systems. The nigerian Electric Power Authority is very unreliable so people started calling it never Expect Power Always. Then the company changed its name to Power Holding Company of nigeria. Without success! The people took the power (of the word) again. became Please Hold Candle at night. OYO, On your Own, does not refer to a specific institution. It is a central concept in a life where you must operate in groups to survive. There are no social support structures nor insurance so the PAPA photographers take care of each other, wherever possible by sharing the work. When you travel through the immense city you are constantly stopped by the area boys, the unofficial landlords of the area you want to cross. If you are On your Own, and not protected by others you have to pay a bribe. We think these 'OYOs', as we started to call all acronyms, should be exported worldwide.

The OYO car park

OYO or 'On Your Own', is a common expression here. Some OYOs: 'car park OYO'. Going into an area alone: 'area boys OYO'. Moving toward a riot: 'riot OYO'. Pizza on the menu and you do not like pizza: 'pizza OYO'. Backing out of the group: 'OYO'.
04 Sept 2009, Tuoyo Omagba


Nigeria Television Authority is one of the largest TV networks in Africa. Its acronym has been appropriated as Nigeria Trekkers Association. The image shows school children walking home from school either to save money or because they don't just have the fare.
31 May 2011, Tuoyo Omagba


Power Holding Company of Nigeria, also known as Please Hold Candle at Night. The image shows people around a transformer whose cables have been stolen. Power operatives are investigating how to fix the transformer.
31 May 2011, Tuoyo Omagba