Glimpses of a “Lost Nigeria” from His Mothers Eyes

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Do you remember watching family photos on slide film? It was all the rage back in the beginning in the 50’s and into the 70’s. Today, it’s quite easy to display photos on a big screen, but in the past, using a slide projector was one of the few ways to really display images on a large scale. While use of slide film and its projectors have significantly declined, it doesn’t excuse the fact that there are still many archived slides gathering dust in boxes across the world. Senongo Akpem decided to digitize his Mothers slides documenting life in Nigeria during a unique period of history for the country.

The year was 1961 and Nigeria had just gained its independence from the British, much like many of the African nations at that time. It was a new awakening in the region and freedom movements were happening all over Africa. Senongo Akpem’s mother had arrived from the states to assist as a missionary. She served in the Benue Leprosy Settlement, which was a place for lepers to be treated and reintegrated back into society. In her time there, she fell in love with a local Nigerian and together they made their life between both countries. Senongo was born, and now much later, he has created an homage to his Mother with his photos. In his words:

Every family has images like this- the old vacation photos, the backyard poses, babies and grandparents. For my family, however, the context was completely different. My mother cut such an interesting figure in all these photos, and the things she took pictures of showed her thoughts on living in Africa. She captured that foreignness, that feeling of being in old Africa, and I wanted to share that with others. The colors of the photos are very striking, as are the people in them, and they are an essential link to my families past.”

Culture is always changing, and it doesn’t plan to stop. Looking back on life in Nigeria is a reminder of how things were, how they are now, and what lessons can be learned in the process. To see more images from Senongo’s mother and life in Nigeria, check out his site Lost Nigeria.

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