Adéola Ọlágúnjú

Still Images, Loud Voices

Born Throw Way!

Artist Adéola Ọlágúnjú‘s project explores a community of loosely organized street gangs of young men in Lagos, Nigeria, known as Area Boys. She delves into their subculture, counterculture, and the improvised and unofficial realms they navigate as well as the structures that sustain them.

Adéola Ọlágúnjú

Structural marginalization and unequally distributed social conditions have contributed to the growing numbers of Area Boys in the streets of Lagos. Their identity is intrinsically rooted in survival and belonging. But what is the psychological space of a person living on the edge of society? How is the struggle of being and becoming reflected in the performance of one’s daily life? These questions guide Ọlágúnjú’s research as she attempts to document the quotidian and the poetic spaces these outsiders occupy.

Ọlágúnjú has created a body of photographic work over months of engaging with the community of Lagos’s Area Boys and gaining their trust. Having presented a series of stills as well as a video work at the digital Forecast Forum in October, she is now devising an immersive installation for the Forecast Festival in April 2021. The work will also include sound and textual elements to channel the unique and expressive linguistic inventions thought up by the Area Boys in their communication. “My intention is to try to replicate the chatter, the situation under the bridge, a place where the men gather and talk politics and football, mostly,” she says. The turns of phrases, neologisms, and slang they use—and which sometimes imply power, respect, and coded hierarchies—will be incorporated into collages. Society never engages with this street language, she points out, until it seeps into music and pop culture.

Ọlágúnjú and her Forecast mentor, Tobias Zielony, met for a work-stay in Berlin the spring of 2021 to finalize the project and put together its layered elements.