Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Lagos City in 1964 By The New York Times

Two Faces of an African City: New and Old in Lagos
~ By LLOYD GARRISON; Special to The New York Times

SEPTEMBER 6, 1964.
LAGOS, Nigeria, Sept. 5 —Lagos, like Manhattan, is an is­land city with no place to go but up.

Newcomers arriving by sea marvel at the dazzling glass and aluminum office buildings thrusting skyward from the Marina, which is to Lagos what the Battery is to Manhattan. But after their ship has sailed up the placid lagoon and they debark, they find the tall new buildings largely a facade.

Behind the facade sprawls the other Lagos: the twisting streets, the open drains, the barefoot children; the sprawl­ing fly‐infested market with its shrewd “mammy” traders who carry their change in their skirts and deposit their profits at Barclays Bank; the once stately Portuguese houses with their carved doors and decay­ing columns.

The Portuguese houses, built by merchants who dealt in spices and slaves, are now par­titioned into rooms for rent. With more than 20 persons to a house and more than three to a room, Lagos landlords have made a killing.

The Tide Keeps Moving

One statistic tells a lot about Lagos: in 10 years it has doubled in population to be­come a metropolis of well over half a million people. It seems that nothing — unemployment, overcrowding, high rents, ris­ing prices — can stem the in­coming tide, for Lagos is a city of dreams.

The poor stream in from the provinces, propelled by the hope of a job paying cash. Few find one, but to go back to the vil­lage or the farm would be to admit failure. So the newcom­ers stay on, swelling the ranks of the unemployed, already more than 100,000.

But Lagos is not all heart­break. As the Federal capital it is a melting pot of all the rival tribes from the outlying regions. Here they can move freely, and more and more they are intermarrying.

Lagos is also the intel­lectuals’ haven. Playwrights

The sculptor Ben Enwonwu works here when not traveling to London or Rome on special commissions. At the Federal ex­hibition center on the Marina, there is always a flock of ad­mirers — and buyers — for the weekly art showings.

“Lagos is a great place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live here,” is the refrain of many Nigerians who come from cities where the pace is slower. But this is the New York of West Africa, and as in New York, the dreamers still out­number the skeptics.

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