Vol 27 No 2 (2018): Nordic Journal of African Studies
Articles Literature

Lagos is a country: Slum, city, nation and globalization in Welcome to Lagos

Aghogho Akpome
Department of English, University of Zululand
Nordic Journal of African Studies
Published November 8, 2018
  • documentary,
  • postcolonial slum,
  • Lagos,
  • Nigeria,
  • representation


In this article, I interrogate the depiction of Lagos and its residents in the BBC’s documentary, Welcome to Lagos for the ways in which these representations reflect, historicize, and critique cultural and economic responses to contemporary urbanization and globalization in Nigeria. Using a literary approach, I argue that it is implicated – by design or otherwise – in Western representations of Africa that continue to draw criticism for being reductive and negatively skewed. I show, in this regard, the ways in which the documentary’s featured slums, the city of Lagos and the postcolonial nation as a whole are conflated as part of the film’s overarching aesthetic and discursive strategy. A significant consequence of this conflation is that the image of the slum is made to operate as the default and totalized metonym not only of the city but also of the country. I demonstrate, furthermore, how the documentary reflects on Nigeria’s recent socio-political transition from military dictatorship to civilian rule and how it highlights the role of politics (both during decolonization and after independence) in shaping the dynamics of modern urbanization in Nigeria in particular and in the global South in general.