Something happened to Lagos nightlife in the past decade that many in the rush of their everyday existence have seemingly forgotten. There was a unique way of life for a generation that went through the battering of the 90’ies, suffering from the lack of basic amenities and recovering from the brink of war and crises around the country due to the annulment of a national election held on 12th June, 1993. The uncertainty of life in Nigeria in that period was so real, this was the era of masses sleeping right in front of all Western embassies to get their visa appointments. Checking out of Nigeria, whichever way, was the main thing on the mind of many of my generation.
Back then, nightlife in Lagos started and ended in the mainland of Lagos. Ikeja, Idi Oro, Surulere, Agege and many other parts of the expanding city were all ultimate partying spots. Really, at this time, the craze for Lagos Island was not a thing at all. By the mid 90ies, the huge beeline for the East of Lagos started. Ajah, Osapa London, Badore, Lekki and many other areas crept into our lingo. Like a swarm of locusts people moved from all nooks and crannies of Lagos heading towards Eti- Osa Local Government Area. Ikoyi and Victoria Island, the Commercial nerve of the country were part of the huge but almost empty rainforests with shifty white sands.
To the East of the famous Bar beach at Victoria Island is a little sandy beach, South of the Kuramo Waters lagoon called Kuramo beach. The story of Kuramo beach has not really been told, in fact it has been consumed and wiped off the memory of many as they go about life.
Kuramo had a life of its own at night in the last decade of the 20th century, in spite of the frequent ocean surge that ate miles off Bar Beach and eventually obliterated it within a decade. It was a real sin city for many young and some older Nigerians. It was the location of numerous illegal shanties and cabins, some of them being used for music entertainment, bars and prostitution.
Kuramo Beach was the place where one could come across some of the freest human beings you could ever think of. The sex, drugs and entertainment culture of Kuramo is something yet to be seen on such level anywhere else in Nigeria. ‘Come make we go fuck’ was something you would hear, with a woman or two aiming for your groin. The shanties all backing the Kuramo waters had little rooms for ‘short time’ sexual encounters. Lewdness was not something frowned upon at Kuramo. The women of Kuramo Beach appeared in all shapes, complexions and grades. The men were the top hustlers, guys on the go from the parking area to the tent where you would be sitting ready to get you any alcohol or drug of your choice.
Another remarkable thing about Kuramo is how old long lost friends suddenly would appear out of the dark, some with a bottle of Squadron Dark Rum (nobody talks about Squady anymore). It was the place to get beer at pump price, eat suya, nkwobi or grilled fish or pepper soup before bouncing into the highbrow clubs to nurse one overpriced bottle of beer for the rest of the night. You would find the highs, lows and everything in between of Lagos society and beyond at Kuramo beach. Another popular sight at Kuramo were white garment church people praying their problems away, casting and binding into the ocean. It was not a site where people frowned at a rasta woli (prayer warrior) screaming on top of his lungs into the salty foamy ocean and a brother getting a blow job just a few meters away. There was respect and everyone went about their business diligently.
The Fall… It was a gradual process, starting with eviction notices from the Lagos State government to the inhabitants and business vendors, also linked to the Eko Atlantic project, an audacious land reclamation from the ocean taking the shores of the Lagos Bar beach to where it had been in 1900. The people in Kuramo never really moved as the revenue being generated was too tempting to leave without a fight, and it eventually became a race against time.
The final chance came for the Lagos State government when a huge ocean surge slapped into Kuramo in the middle of the night in August 2012, destroying many of the shacks and killing sixteen people, some swept off into the ocean never to be seen again. That night, Lagos lost that interesting glitter by the ocean. The government came in quickly, flattened the place up, washing away the dreams of many beer vendors, destitutes, area boys and girls including many Lagos Island nightcrawlers.
Bolaji Alonge is an artist, international photographer, actor and journalist from Lagos, Nigeria. His visual language speaks of the wonders of nature and human exchange, urban culture and searches for historical continuity in a world that is sometimes heavily fractured. He is also a globetrotter who has travelled around the world during the last decade documenting exotic culture and history. In May 2017, Bolaji organized his “Eyes of a Lagos Boy” photo exhibition at the prestigious Freedom Park in Lagos.
Photos by Adolphus Opara http://adolphusopara.com/
Story by Bolaji Alonge
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