Adewale Maja-Pearce

Welcome to the third issue of Surulere Now! Teething problems made us miss our July deadline so we present a double August/September issue by way of amends.
In this issue we lead with reminiscences of the ‘New Lagos’ by Tam Fiofori, a long-time resident who charts its centrality in the cultural life of this city-state of an estimated 20 million people, as we hope we have reflected in our offerings here. The most populous ‘black’ nation on Earth may have failed itself in many ways but nobody would argue with its cultural credentials. Fiofori is too modest to say that he hung out with Fela Kuti in the early days when the late, great Afrobeat musician was based here (to say nothing of penning the lyrics to ‘Lady’), even as he champions the phenomenon of Nollywood.

Akin to America’s Hollywood, Surulere can rightly claim to have nurtured the Nigerian Nollywood film industry. One of the earliest meeting places for producers, directors, actors and actresses; and a place that also served as an impromptu audition and casting venue was Winnie’s Hotel. Since then, frontline filmmakers like Zeb Ejiro and Mahmmud Ali-Balogun have established production offices in Surulere while Kinks Studio is a leading post-production company like many others that operate out of Surulere.

Mention of Nollywood immediately suggests salacious gossip of its more notorious female stars, for instance the ‘captivating celebrity’ Tonto Dike. I first met her 15 years ago when she was still a minor. I was in the company of Maxim Uzoatu, otherwise known as The Poet, who has written eloquently about the days when he lived at Nnobi Right in a previous issue. She served us beer and isi ewu – always with a smile – at her mother’s joint. I would never have guessed her subsequent trajectory but good luck to her. She features here because she recently brought even more honour to the inhabitants of Nnobi Right by marrying a son of Obasanjo. This may or may not be a good thing given Baba’s predilection for his daughters-in-law, as another of his sons testified, but forewarned is forearmed,

It was with a great sense of humility that I realised I hadn’t known all along that another celebrity lived in our midst. I’m referring to Onuora Nzekwu, the author of the classic, Eze Goes to School, beloved by generations of schoolchildren since it was first published in the mid-1960s. It is fitting that we honour our elders. It is also fitting that we recognise those who are coming up, in this case A Igoni Barrett, whose hilarious debut novel, Blackass, is happening all over the place, and not only in Surulere.

Out with old, in with the new: we are also pleased to announce the opening of Yemaja Gallery and Arts Centre, as you will see from the centre pages, where we feature the launch of Juliet Ezenwa’s Issues in Contemporary Nigerian Art in early August. There is no reason why galleries should be confined to the Island, where most of the oyibos who buy Nigerian art tend to hang out. This is said without prejudice to the late Ambassador Segun Olusola’s Ajibola Moniya Gallery on Babs Animashaun. You can read about our forthcoming programmes in the next issue. We aim for it to be the place to hang out in Surulere, even for oyibos wary of crossing over to the mainland. We might even try and go for the perfect akara that Femke, one of our regular contributors, has failed to find in our neighbourhood.

To go from culture to sports, we were pleasantly surprised by the reaction to our cover story in the last edition concerning the pitiful state of our national stadium. I was even accosted by a taxi driver at the junction of Olufemi and Ajao roads who urged us to keep up the pressure on the authorities to restore it to its former glory. It is in this spirit that the man widely hailed as Jah Lion, himself a long-term Surulere resident who used to play football there in his younger (!) days, has added his own perspective in a long Letter to the Editor. Please keep the letters coming in.

– Editor

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