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As soon as you claim your luggage and clear customs, Nike’s staff take you to her home on the Lekki Penninsula. There, you can browse the art gallery featuring the whole panoply of Nigerian arts, or see some of the documentaries that have been made about Nigerian culture. While in Lagos, you might want to see the spectacular collection of traditional sculptures and carving in the National Museum, or visit the National Gallery to acquaint yourself with some of the country’s modern masters. Visit bookstores to buy Nigerian novels or histories or special works on cultural topics (the country has an active publishing industry).
You’ll discover a city far more welcoming than the ferocious Lagos of modern myth. It’s a Third World megalopolis, all right, and even Nike’s authority can’t make traffic jams disappear or the electrical system function. No one would ever use words like “pleasant” or “relaxing” in reference to the commercial capital of West Africa, but Lagos is a lively, chaotic, fast-moving city. Your Lagos stay can be as long or as brief as you like. Don’t be surprised, though, if you leave Nigeria with a certain fondness and respect for Lagos.
In the 1950s, in this small city in the cocoa producing area of Nigeria, a couple of German artists took up residence, and soon gathered about them a troop of traditional craftsmen and artists. The result was a synthesis between Yoruba tradition and the modern world; the Oshogbo School heralded the birth of contemporary African art.
Oshogbo has grown, and is now the capital of the newly created Osun State. Its arts and crafts still flourish alongside the modern conveniences of internet cafes and supermarkets. You’ll stay in the neo-traditional palace that is Nike’s Oshogbo home. Visit artists the workshops and galleries of internationally known figures such as Jimoh Buraimoh, Jacob Afolabi, or Chief Oloruntoba. Apprentice yourself to a cloth dyer, or drummer, or sculptor. Enjoy traditional dances and music in the evening. Wander through the narrow, winding streets of the old city. Explore a traditional market. Visit the Sacred Grove of Osun, the river goddess. You may wish to schedule your visit to coincide with the spectacular Osun Festival in August, when Oshogbo explodes in colorful masquerades.
Have you ever wondered what life is like in an African village? Ogidi, Nike’s home town nestled among the spectacular rock out croppings of Kogi State, has a population of about 3000. Climb these hills to get a panorama of rain forest farms and towns. You observe the process of Yoruba textile production, from the cotton grown on small farms in Ogidi through the spinners, weavers and dyers in the women’s cooperative that Nike developed. In the evenings the local dance troop entertains you with traditional music and dance, or maybe you’ll be treated to a few scenes from the traveling theater that was a feature of Yoruba life in the 40s and 50s. Chat with local residents, as they practice their English and teach you their own language. Ask the elders to recount the history of their village to you. Visit the remains of the British garrison that was stationed there in the late 19th century, or explore the ruins of the village on a nearby mountain where Ogidi was originally sited.
You might want to take a day to visit Lokoja, located 45 miles away at the confluence of the Niger and Benue Rivers. Now a busy market town and the capital of Kogi State, Lokoja was the site of the first capital of Nigeria when the British amalgamated the colony of Lagos, the Oil Rivers Protectorate, and the Northern Territories. It was in Lokoja, while gazing out at the river that stretched before her, that Lord Lugard’s mistress coined the name “Nigeria.” The explorer Mungo Park is buried in Lokoja, as is Lord Lugard.
Nigeria’s new capital is an attractive modern city set in the middle of the country. It is too new to have developed a flavor or personality of its own; it offers none of the excitement of Lagos, but it also frees you from the traffic problems that plague the commercial capital. You may choose to arrive in Nigeria at the small and quiet international airport at Abuja. The Abuja center is Nike’s newest.