Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Illusan Market

These photos were taken in 1993, a few miles outside of the Victoria Island subdivision I lived and worked in, at a market/townsite called Illusan. I've got some examples of the masks that I brought back with, but its really hard to convey what it was like to go to the market. I recently dug out a journal I was keeping at the time, and I actually made an entry about going to the market that day (being the first time we went). Here is the transcript below ...

June 26, 1993
Lagos, Nigeria
"The Galleria"

Today we went to the Galleria. Its a huge open air market on Victoria Island nicknamed by one of our Houston contingent. As I saw today, if you can't find it at Nigeria's version of the Galleria, you probably can't think to look for it.

Bartering is a way of life here. You never buy anything at the first price mentioned, and half the original price is usually starting to be reasonable.

Its a very eerie place. Hundreds of wooden shacks set up a few feet apart, with narrow dirt pathways running between the rows of shops. Very little sunlight breaks through to ground level as the rooves of the shops over hang, closing you in. And its literally crawling with people. Everyone has something to sell, from food to alcohol, art to guide services.

Its truly a family affair. While mom minds the store and talks to customers, older kids will prepare merchandise, while the younger children roam the passageways, trying to attract customers to the family stall. Be careful ... they are there to guide you to their family stall, NOT to the best merchandise or prices.

It certainly is an adventure. At first, the people, the smells, the stuff, can all be a bit overwhelming. But in the end, its not really any worse than a K-Mart $1.49 day.


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