Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

Lagos: A Cultural & Historical Companion

Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

Lagos: A Cultural & Historical Companion

Article excerpt

Lagos: a cultural & historical companion, by Kaye Whiteman. Oxford: Signal Books, 2012. xxiii + 271pp. ISBN 9781908493057. £12.00.

Lagos is an unexpected entry in a publisher's series on 'Cities of the Imagination' alongside more immediately appealing places such as Athens, Rome, Oxford, Cambridge, Istanbul and Bangkok. Even to the author, the commission came as something of a surprise,

Even in my most exotic creative imaginings, I had not thought that Lagos, even as a city that I have known well for a long time, would be the subject of the first full-length book that I would write, above all in the middle of my eightieth decade the notion came as something of a shock. (p.xix)

Apart from Cairo, Lagos is the only African representative in the series. Kaye Whiteman, for many years editor of West Africa and someone who knows what it is like to live and work there, tries hard, perhaps too hard to justify the 'City of the Imagination' soubriquet. And perhaps the format of the series was unhelpfully prescriptive or restrictive. The result is an uneven book, occasionally disappointing but with flashes of inspiration. The topographical and historical sections may be pedestrian, the 'selection of episodes in the city's history' and chapter on 'Prominent personalities of Lagos' a bit of a ragbag and the whole would have benefitted from a timeline or chronology and better maps, but Kaye Whiteman captures the excitement and the buzz that is Lagos - Lonely Planet described the city as 'chaos theory made flesh and concrete' (quoted p. …

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