Creating Kanju (Part 6: It’s Not Chaos, It’s Idumota)

Part Six: It’s Not Chaos, It’s Idumota

This morning we arrive on a second Nollywood set with director Ikechukwu Onyeka, “Ike”. Another legend in the Nollywood scene who’s “made it”. He comes back to Lagos to work, but he prefers to be where his wife and child live – back in Georgia, not too far from where I grew up. The world is small. When we walk in, another bedroom scene is being set up. Again, the space is too small for the Ladybug.Ike Interview

Instead, I place the 360flys in the center of one of the sets being used as a green room by the actors. Scripts in hand, they practicing their lines or sit upright to have their make-up applied by the make-up artist. Aaron and Dan shoot an interview with Ike. I take some still shots. But this isn’t what we had in mind. Dan decides that we’ll come back to the set when they are moved on to the living room set-up – in about 3 to 4 hours. In the meantime, we’ll head to Idumota.


Idumota Market is Absolute Chaos. Dayo, the writer of “The Bright Continent” whose book inspired this journey, would not be pleased at me saying that. It’s not chaos – it’s just organized differently, in a way that I don’t understand. Thousands of people walking in every direction, amongst and through cars. Cars parked in the middle of highways, drivers reaching out to vendors with their wares balanced precariously on their heads, yellow vans shouting out to potential passengers. Aaron

Credit: Bellafricana
Credit: Bellafricana

has the GoPros suctioned to the windows. I wonder if the footage is as chaotic as it feels when about every third second you’re pretty sure you’ve just driven over someone but you never actually hear the thud. This style of organization is enough to give a type-A westerner a heart attack.


Our driver parks the van at what seems like the middle of a highway overpass. When in Rome. Hisses and clicks come at us from every direction as we get out. No idea what that means but I figure it’s probably related to our blindingly white skin.  Our goal here is to get footage of the DVD stores that sell the Nollywood films and possibly get a VR set-up where audiences can feel the chaos of the market.

There is so much happening at every moment, it’s too intense to even stop walking, much less even consider placing an unstable VR rig in the middle of. But I bring all the gear anyways. We walk off the main throughway into a cramped aisle-way, and under tin roofs leading through winding back alleys. Textiles, DVDs, boxes with microwaves, air conditioners, car parts, and children’s toys are shoved into individual stands where their sellers wait. Some patiently watching us walk by, others shouting and coming up to us with unknown offers.

I get the feeling we’re lost. Eke asks for directions a couple of times. How one actually gives directions here is beyond me. We walk past a two-year old who is gleefully relieving himself into the gutter and up to a second 2nd floor space.  A woman is waiting for us here. We’re told this is a safe place for our gear.  We decide, after our experience getting chased out of the Marina market by men with guns, that we’ll minimize our footprint again. Only Aaron and I will go out with minimal gear and while we’re walking around I’ll scout for safe places to set up the Ladybug that might capture a decent shot.

Credit: FreedomOnline
Credit: FreedomOnline

There are dozens of DVD shops with stacks upon stacks of Nollywood films. We recognize some familiar names and faces. Aaron starts rolling camera on his camera in one shop, I sit down in another DVD shop with the 360fly attached to my helmet, Brahma mic in hand. I roll for a few minutes. Even though Aaron is out of sight, I can still hear him talking to the locals, which means my mic is picking him up, too. A static shot isn’t as interesting as a moving shot anyways, and I really want footage walking through Idumota to capture the fluidity and ease with which so many people maneuver this massive market. I get the sense that Idumota is exploding with opportunity and competition and “kanju”.

I walk behind a guide though one of the oldest and largest markets in Western Africa wearing a bright white helmet with a ball on top that looks like it can communicate with outer space. Hisses and clicks come from every direction, trying to get my attention. I can’t look at them, I have to keep my head as still as possible and I’m trying very hard not to lose my footing on the uneven concrete. We walk through textiles, DVD shops, out into the sunshine and infinite chaos of cars vs man. The children in the market don’t hold back as they follow me, laughing and yelling “Yavo!”.

I zen out and pretend I am practicing balancing twenty pounds of peanuts on my head like the African women here do with such ease and grace.After about 10 minutes of weaving through the chaos, I feel like we have enough to go back to the 2nd floor to set up the Ladybug rig & wait for Aaron to return with Eke so I have security while setting up the rig.

Eke and I head down with the Ladybug and laptop out, leaving behind the backpacks. We are immediately are swarmed by shouting men. I keep my eyes down, stay close, and let Eke handle it. I can’t tell what they’re saying, but Eke seems to be saying this is his production and to leave me alone.  The lighting situation presents problems. Under the tin roofs, it’s dark but slats of blaring light jut into the picture. The street opening at the end of one path is completely blown out.  The shouts get louder and louder until they finally die down and everyone starts to go about their business. Time to roll. Sound speed.

I sit crouched under the camera, watching the passersby through the live stream on the the SDK. I wonder if this is interesting enough. It’s a safe place to put a camera, with Eke’s protection, but it’s not capturing the intensity of the street walkthrough earlier. We pack up and go to find lunch, which miraculously (for those of us who aren’t vegetarian) turns out to be KFC. Dan and I get an entire bucket.DanKFC

While Dan and Jen are off trying to confirm the Rwanda visas, I find a pool table in a community room. Our local photography “intern” for the day, Michael, investigates how one might get to play. Michael is the brother of one of the staff at our hotel. Aaron had gotten to chatting with her about being here filming, and she had asked if Michael could come with us for the day to learn about cameras. Michael is quiet yet constantly absorbing information, exploring Aaron’s camera, and eager to be an helping hand on set in anyway. Like many Nigerians we meet, he is kind and yet hardened in an undefinable way, constantly moving and ready to hustle for what’s next.We all love having him as part of our team for the day.

We don’t get a chance to rack the balls. It’s time to roll back to the Nollywood set.

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