Tawny in the Times of Quarantine

I stayed in Ile-Ife for 5 consecutive years for my university degree plus about 1 extra year faffing around with friends. Off Ibadan express road where I lived was a blend of spells of cherished calmness and longer spells of me, yearning for a little bit more, in terms of options. And by options I mean; in the range of products to shop from, or hoping that the shops wouldn’t close so early, usually around 6 PM. Other times, it’s the bumpy rides in the popular transport vehicles known as korope, I pled a break from. Ile-Ife isn’t known for grandeur architectural lines or unique road networks, yet every town has its own signature feature(s) and the culture that builds around it thereof. In Ile-Ife it might be seemingly hard to tell her signature feature apart from other Nigerian towns, but you needn’t give up yet. In this exploration, Papa Akanni’s approach of placing the man-made landscape against the background of the cloudy skies helps the viewer appreciate the unbelievable but present – subtle – architectural lines that one is likely to miss when commuting in-person in Ile-Ife. Due to the quarantine which started in March following the state governor enforcing a total lockdown, the absence of a multitude of daily commuters grants us a clear peek into the nature of the main roads and wayside constructions of Ile-Ife town. Shot predominantly in Lagere, the market, and banking hub of Ile-Ife, we can see deserted stalls and empty parking lots of the commercial banks that usually receive daily traffic of the town’s industrious populace. What has mostly caught my attention through this project is the tawny and stony untarred pedestrian paths of the town. As is popular with many Nigerian towns getting urbanized at a slower rate, the districts are usually made up of informal and formal structures. Ile-Ife epitomizes this, as it is often easy to find wooden stalls immediately after or in front of landmark structures. In this town, not everyone can afford a monthly rent so they opt to build these wooden stalls or create shops out of containers and pay the area boys a little levy off their weekly sales. With these petty earners forced to abandon their trade due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s hard to imagine how they fared in the shutdown, even as the government begins to ease its shutdown restrictions. Written by Oluwatobi Idowu