Surulere-based photographer, Segun Taylor, speaks on her forthcoming exhibition

We talk endlessly about children being the future but – as with so much else in Nigeria – we carelessly waste them. According to UN figures, 50 percent of Nigerian children do not attend primary school. Also according to the UN, about one million Nigerian children die each year before reaching their fifth birthday. Proportionately, this makes the situation of Nigerian children worse than children in either Liberia, say, or the Democratic Republic of Congo, yet we call our country the Giant of Africa and look down on our neighbours as poor relations. Perhaps this is part of out hypocrisy that allows such to happen. Do we really care about our kids? And if so, how do we show it. We all know that talk is cheap and that actions speak louder than words. As the Liberian president recently said, Africa is not a poor continent, just poorly managed, but perhaps it took a woman to say so, in which case we need more women presidents in Africa. The men have had their turn and have only made a hash of things. To paraphrase one of our leading young writers, we must all be feminists now.segs

Anyway, it was with all this in mind that I first conceived the idea of focusing my photography on the plight of children in Nigeria. My especial interest was with children living in the rural areas. I must confess that, initially, I was amazed to discover what they go through. Everything we take for granted here in the urban areas is, for them, strange and new. Take the example of the simple seesaw we see in the few parks we still have. Such a simple and relatively cheap device is unknown outside our cities. Instead, the children must cobble it together using planks of wood. Of course, this can be touted as a form of ingenuity and should be praised. True enough but wouldn’t one rather see their ingenuity on display in more exalted settings? Wouldn’t we rather see them take the seesaw – and swings and roundabouts and all the rest of them – for granted when they spill out of their classrooms for a well-deserved break from their computer lessons that will herald the Nigerian Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.

These are the thoughts that kept going through my mind as I was putting together this exhibition, which is the third in the series; the first was held last year. I hope, in any case, that this exhibition will be part of a wider and much-needed dialogue on the plight of the Nigerian child. As we all know, and as we keep reminding ourselves, the children are the future. And in an age where universal literacy is elsewhere taken as a given, as the norm, our refusal to do the needful will continue to keep us in a state of perpetual dependence on those who have seized the times. The pity of it is that we possess all the resources to transform our nation – only that, collectively speaking, we do not want to do it. The result is in the photographs I have put together for this exhibition.

Happy – or should I say sober? – viewing.

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