by Adaeze Ezenwa
I’d like to get a camera, not one of those high-tech contraptions with dials and buttons intended to confuse and confound. I’d want one that is just a simple shutter and lens operation but will make me some stunning pictures. I would not take pictures of people, they do not interest me. I might take pictures of babies though, just because they haven’t learned to be self-conscious before the camera. Their essence would shine through because they aren’t concerned with making a fine picture or in my capturing their most flattering side.
Animals are more appealing to me, goats especially. I’d take pictures of goats, cows and monkeys, no cats or dogs because I do not like either. Then I’d take pictures of houses, interesting houses. I’d find the most fascinating houses, no house built within the last twenty-five years would qualify. In Sapele I found the most beautiful colonial houses, I’m glad that they haven’t been torn down for space to make the monstrosities that are the stamp of the nouvelle rich. I’d travel from town to town and find houses worthy of my clicker, I’d print them in the widest photo paper and hang them everywhere.
Nigeria is an art treasure trove and my camera would bring a huge portion to life. From the wood carvers of Epe who make the most exquisite carvings of canoes and Ẹ̀yọ̀ masquerades to the Bronze castings of Benin and Ifẹ̀ and the beautiful, beautiful patterns that our weavers produce on clothes that are almost too beautiful to wear. I’d show you the street painters of Lagos who put the Picassos and Monets of this world to shame and the extravagant poetry and glass works of Bida craftsmen. Have you seen the wall art that decorates most Northern palaces? Fret not, my camera will show you all that and more.
I’d go round the country looking for rocks and hills and jaw dropping landscapes. Finding the most beautiful plants and flowers would be my delight, my pleasure and perhaps my salvation. From the tiny sunflowers that line the road to my grandfather’s house but strangely do not grow around the house, to the pale pink hibiscus that makes me wonder if it’s a mutation or a deficiency that bleached the flowers from the variety that produced the bright red blooms that I used to wear in my hair and that has drawn my eyes in every part of Nigeria that I have visited. Not forgetting the Ixora from which my brothers and I sucked the nectar even though we didn’t really like it. We did it because we didn’t want to seem like we were snobbish Lagos children in our hometown, we didn’t know that we would never belong even if we sucked all the Ixora in the world. Ixora might have nectar but they do not hold a candle to the fresh flowers of the Hibiscus that deliver a burst of tangy and sweet when you chew them. The dried flowers make the drink you know as zobo, that red liquid that will stain your tongue and clothes, the same one that southerners are prone to make with ginger. Please stop that nasty habit.
And the rocks? I’d travel from Ọ̀rẹ̀ to Okpella to Jos and Kaduna in search of hills clothed with the most diverse vegetation you could think of. I’d bring images of majestic rock sides polished by thousands of years of rainfall and of depressions in the earth that makes the houses look like match boxes and the people like ants. Wouldn’t you like to see the green that decorates the rain forest? All the shades of green and a dusting of light brown will give you a peace that words cannot describe and the plenty snails and other bush creatures that make Bendel the home of bushmeat.
Then I’d take pictures of the soil, the light brown sand of the Savannah that drinks up any liquid with a speed that will startle, the rich loamy soil of my hometown that pulses with life and brings only one word to mind- fertile. Then I’d go to Enugu and show the world the baby rocks and monstrous pebbles that the people there call soil. From Benin we’ll see images of that rich red clay that coats everything with a reddish patina before coming to Lagos the city I was born where I’d show the aptly named potopoto. That clingy blackish mass that SUVs like to spray on hapless pedestrians, it’s not surprising that the first thing a Lagosian wants is wheels and metal roof with four windows and a windscreen.
I’d love to take pictures of the sky, of the blue sky dotted with pretty white clouds that remind of Mary’s little lamb. Or the days when the clouds are a duller shade of white and seem heavy without promise of fruit. People of the earth would describe such weather as cloudy, I wouldn’t use such a mundane term. If I could, I’d capture the play of colour that makes the evening sky its canvas. Most of all, I’d like to take a picture of the sky just before a storm- the kind of storm that you’d instinctively know that your umbrella is hopeless against. I’d show you the papers and nylon bags whipped by the frenzy of the wind, show you the sky black with surging rage and the bands of lightning that provide the most amazing contrast you’ve ever seen. Then when the first drops of rain come down, I’d take pictures of the thick fat drops as they hit the earth. Thick and fat like the ones dotting the windscreen of the bus I’m currently sitting in. I am in Benin-city and it always rains here, if I had a camera I’d show you the patterns formed by the raindrops.
I want a camera, will you buy me one?
Adaeze is a writer who recently started referring to herself as one. In another life, she studied pharmacy at the University of Benin and had high hopes of becoming the next Dora. Now she sits in front of her laptop and writes about the everyday trials and joys of a single sistah in Lagos. She still lives with her parents and brothers and she’s married to Jesus.