The Cacophony of a Nigerian Market…
Today, I entered the beast, better known as the Balogun Market in Lagos, Nigeria. Lagos is one of the most populous cities in the world serving home to over 19 million people (about two times the population size of New York City). The Balogun Market is a large and noisy outdoor and indoor space that is made up of stalls along complex and confusing aisles. The market is known for its cheap goods and endless yards of exotic African fabrics. I was told that if I wanted to get inexpensive, colorful fabrics, then this is the place I needed to go.
The tight, chaotic aisles of Balogun Market.
Now, I have been to numerous markets across Africa – South Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya, Mexico and Ecuador, including Wuse Market in Abuja. Usually, I am in and out because I am looking for a particular item. Within 30 minutes, I entered the market, find my item, negotiate a price and on my way back to the car. As we entered Balogun, I was looking for fabric and my colleague was looking for baby items. In the first hour, I was completely overwhelmed with the unlimited yards of fabric types and patterns. It was endless aisles and stalls of flashy and colorful patterns. I was struggling to make up my mind. And I believe the lack of air and circulation in these stalls is a tactic to wear you down so you will accept any price. It one point of time, I told my colleague, I just want to purchase this fabric just to get out of here!
My fabric purchase in the Balogun Market.
The worst part of our four hour shopping experience was trying to find a baby carrier (a car seat). While it would be extremely smart to cluster similar goods together, that is not the case in the Balogun Market. It’s a chaotic experience looking for items that are scattered throughout the busy market. It doesn’t help that Lagos’ location on the Atlantic Ocean breeds a humid and rainy climate situation. Some of the stalls were like steam rooms because of the heat and humidity.
Seeking refuge from the noisy market.
At one point, I sought shelter with two women selling children clothes to escape the rain and heat as the two market women had an air conditioned stall. It was a small relief from the cacophony of sounds taking place outside their stall. After almost three hours of shopping and negotiating, I told my colleague that I was having a sensory overload and it was time to call it a day. He agreed as he had purchased the baby carrier but was in an intense negotiation regarding a bassinette. As we headed back to the car, he hired a woman to carry his baby carrier and bassinette on her head. I explained to him that in the United States, the man is expected to carry the items to the car – not the woman.
My colleague and his “helper” delivering his items to the car.
While my American bubble was being tested during our visit to Balogun, it was an enjoyed trip into the maze of the chaotic African market. I picked up some flashy African fabric that my tailor will turn into a cool Nigerian outfit. I will be looking good in no time…Just check out what he did with my Auburn fabric from the United States…War Eagle!!!
Ready for football season! #WarEagle