Saturday, 26 October 2013

Visiting a Market in Lagos, West Africa

Health and safety would have a field licenses, no cling wrap, no vacuum packing, no sell by dates...visiting an African open air market place.

Full of pulsating colour, fabrics, kerosene, curry and hair products; large personalities, buxom females and colloquial dialogues, I was thrust, as a very English Mrs Teacup into a world that was fascinatingly unintelligible. Tin shacks lined muddy alleyways that wove their way amongst boldly and elaborately dressed Nigerian women manning stalls and shacks selling everything you could possibly need, from cosmetics to fresh tomatoes and hair extensions to the tail of a cow.

No concrete, tarmac or linoleum covered the earths floor, so dodging puddles, ditches and craters, my African companion steered, guided and protected me along the narrow alleys, weaving in and out of black African's who tried their best to touch and stroke, the only white face in a sea of ebony.....and again the whisper of "white woman, white woman" cascaded through the alleyways, shacks and shoppers. These whispers went before me, like a river, I never overtook these words; they went before me. As they flowed and wound their way,  inquisitive black faces peeked out, around corrugated tin walls, to view this unusual mirage that had descended upon this mind-blowing place.

Vibrant and vibrating with chatter, music and richly coloured traditional dress, the market was alive with Africa. This was Nigeria at its best. Fascinating, awesome and truly an experience made in heaven, I loved it. Jaw open, eyes wide, head lurching from side to side, I enjoyed the African-ness of it all as my companion held on to me tightly and guided me to the relevant lean-tos to realise our purchases. We bought fresh fruits and homemade hot freshly made chilli tomato sauce. We watched the animated African mama squish the tomatoes, chop the onions, slice the chillies and add all to a massive antiquated aluminium blender and pour the pureed sauce into a lidded pot we supplied ourselves. No health and safety regulations here.

On we continued to purchase meat.....Oh my.....was this an eye opener and an over powering stench as we entered the meat market. On ancient rickety wooden benches, upon a mud laden floor, were slabs of goat, cow, pig and chickens laying and hanging for as far as the eye could see. There were pig totters, strung up chickens, cow legs and cow tails decorating every part of the corrugated tin roof along with masses of flies and mosquitoes that buzzed irritatingly and persistently around us and the carcasses. I don't know how I didn't vomit; the stench was horrific, the atmosphere like a free for all abattoirs. Machetes lay nonchalantly everywhere and excesses of blood ran under our feet into ditches, gulley’s and puddles, where large fat mossies’ feasted hungrily.

My jaw dropped further open and I knew I had to get out of there. My companion purchased his large slabs of goat, beef and a chicken and feeling sick to my stomach and faint, I was whisked through the mud and puddle ridden alleys back to the flooded, car infested main road where our car awaited and where the "white woman, white woman" whispers now lagged and faded behind me.

I could not stomach cow tail, goat, beans and hot red sauce for dinner; Nigerian porridge and a cuppa tea was my preferred supper.

No comments:

Post a Comment