Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 5,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."


{Tolu Talabi, this one is for you.}


The number of wooden placards encircling Falomo Roundabout. Painted on them are black silhouettes and red question marks where faces should be. Tied to the barricades protecting the flower beds, they have been here since May, under the rain and in the sun. A painful reminder that the 200 plus girls abducted from Chibok are still in captivity.

Lagos is often accused of being a rogue state, out of touch with the rest of the nation. In my opinion, a harsh but deserved criticism. However, this gesture, this monument, is proof that we are still a country.


Fifty naira—the cost of a cup of boiled groundnuts in Victoria Island. You can get double that for the same price in its sister neighbourhood, Maitama. I guess food is more expensive here. Still, I shouldn’t have advertised my foreignness. For a minute, I forgot my coordinates and called out to the hawker, “Mai gyeda!”


26 Bourdillon Road. Address of the former Governor’s residence. A mansion really, it’s become a landmark in its own right. “Turn right after Tinubu’s house”, someone will direct you. You can’t miss it—there’s a giant flyer with his face on it in front of the gate.

High-brow, exclusive and elitist, Ikoyi is pretty much the only area where the colonial vision has been maintained and improved upon. But don’t let the picturesque fool you. Within view of the four-star hotels and luxury apartments are shelters made from corrugated metal. There are roads where drainage is so bad, you have to roll up your trousers and wade to get from point A to point B.

I don’t have to tell you about the mounds of trash and gutters overflowing with muck. Like the rest of this country, you don’t have to look too far to find squalor.


Google Maps estimates that it takes eighteen minutes to walk across the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge. I wouldn’t know; I didn’t pack the appropriate shoes. Speaking of shoes, I have noticed that your footwear defines your business on this bridge. Athletic kicks for the runners, joggers and power walkers; stilettos if you’re only doing a photo shoot. Choose between bathroom slippers or going barefoot if you are an itinerant laborer. Graduate trainees, loafers will protect your soles while you save up for that car.

A hip-hop posse gets their swag on while a solitary young man with headphones leans against the rails and stares into the Lagoon. I wish I could emulate his zen, but I imagine it would only invite suicidal thoughts.


There are nine roundabouts on the Lekki-Epe Expressway. The venue for my interview is off a right turn a few meters before the fourth. A combination of anxiety, an empty stomach and taking the alternative exit out of Lekki Phase One makes me mistake the third roundabout for the first.

The bus conductors always remind you where you are, so why did I let the fear of having (1) my handbag snatched (2) my most formal dress ripped by a rusty nail and (3) my makeup ruined by sweat, stop me from taking one?

Traffic on the other side of the road is at a stand-still. I pay the taxi driver and begin the twenty-minute trek. No big deal, it’s just cardio.


There are two guitars parked in the otherwise empty carport in front of House Number 2. Well, technically. Judging from the size of those dusty cases, one of them is probably a banjo or a mandolin. They most likely belong to Banky W. He lives here, two doors away from my aunt.

I can’t help but think that there is something symbolic in their abandonment. It seems to suggest that in this age of computerized beats and auto-tune, there is no room for real music anymore. Why else would an artist treat his instruments that way?

I realize now that I may have seen him in the compound last week, half in, half out of his jeep. I didn’t recognize him at the time. Maybe it was because he wasn’t wearing a hat. Maybe it was because he wasn’t licking his lips.



Post image titled, “Island Vista,” is one of many photographs of Lagos taken by Nigerian photographer tagged “Studio Flow” on Flickr. Check out more of his stunning portraits of the city HERE

About the Author: 

Portrait - Akumbu UcheAkumbu Uche was born in Kaduna, raised in Port Harcourt and educated at the University of Jos. Her writing has appeared in The Kalahari ReviewSaraba MagazineQarrtsiluni and elsewhere. She lives in Lagos.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

13 Responses to “Notes from the Island | by Akumbu Uche | A Portrait of Lagos in Six Fragments” Subscribe

  1. seun January 14, 2015 at 7:24 am #

    She’s very good, ainehi. I love her already!

  2. Derin January 14, 2015 at 9:28 am #

    Luuuurv this piece Akumbu looking forward to reading more of your work.

  3. chidi uche January 14, 2015 at 1:33 pm #

    This is beautiful, keep it up girl.

  4. wana January 14, 2015 at 1:43 pm #

    i absolutely love this, it can be easily adapted into a performance piece about living in Lagos. Its giving me ideas

  5. Ainehi Edoro January 14, 2015 at 8:17 pm #


    I know exactly what you mean. It’ll be fabulous on stage ’cause it’s essentially dramatizing a series of iconic spaces and experiences in Lagos.

  6. Khadijah Muhammad January 15, 2015 at 3:22 am #

    I loved how the fragments came together. It’s almost like the way we remember things in images.

  7. Nancy Obi January 15, 2015 at 5:51 am #

    Keep it up Young lady. And keep up with the comments especially those who want to borrow your ideas to use on stage. Keep up with such people so you can leverage on the writing…

  8. Esther Mark January 15, 2015 at 11:52 pm #

    Go Kumbus! Super proud of you!
    Remind me to be like you when I grow up!

  9. mariam sule February 2, 2015 at 4:23 pm #

    Finally someone who studied in Nigeria. I love!!!

  10. Keonye February 28, 2015 at 7:25 am #

    Awwww so lovely…an awesome piece, keep it up Akumbu

  11. Benjamin E.B. February 28, 2015 at 7:28 pm #

    Simply stunning! The work of genius!

  12. Temi March 1, 2015 at 10:55 pm #

    Awesome! More inspiration to your Pen.

  13. Oyinlola May 27, 2015 at 5:13 am #

    A beautiful piece, adapting it to a performance on stage will be all the icing it needs.

    Thumbs up Akumbu. Mitchel spoke highly of your writings and I must say I am not disappointed.

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."


Apply to Africa Is a Country’s $3,000 Fellowship Program for Intellectual & Cultural Producers of Africa-Related Knowledge


The political and intellectual culture platform Africa Is a Country (AIAC) has announced its inaugural Fellowship Program, “of up to […]

Oxford English Dictionary Recognizes West African English, Adds 29 Nigerian Words & Senses

danfo buses in Lagos - guardian nigeria

Oxford English Dictionary has recognized West African English, bringing its number of World Englishes to 15, including Australian, Canadian, Caribbean, Hong Kong, Irish, […]

100 Most Influential Young Nigerians: Otosirieze Obi-Young, Arit Okpo, Kiki Mordi, Richard Akuson & Olutimehin Adegbeye Make Avance Media’s List

otosirieze obi-young, arit okpo, olutimehin adegbeye, richard akuson, kiki mordi on Avance Media's list of 100 most influential young nigerians

Brittle Paper’s Deputy Editor Otosirieze Obi-Young has been named one of the “100 Most Influential Young Nigerians” in 2019 by […]

For Working Class Writers & Refugees, Sulaiman Addonia Is Giving Out 40 Free Tickets to the Asmara Addis Festival

Asmara Addis Literray Festival in Exile (13)

When writing is described as an elitist profession, critics mean that opportunities in the field are determined by access, which […]

Modern Sudanese Poetry | New Anthology Spans Six Decades of Sudanese History & Cultural Intersections

Modern Sudanese Poetry - graph

Modern Sudanese Poetry: An Anthology, translated and edited by the Sudanese poet Adil Babikir, was published in paperback in September […]

Chuma Nwokolo Compensated in Plagiarism Lawsuit Against High Definition Film Studio, Shares More Stories of Plagiarism of His Work

chuma nwokolo by Yusuf Dahir

In November 2019, the Nigerian author Chuma Nwokolo called out Nollywood filmmaker Bright Wonder Obasi for using sections of his […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.