Eko Wèngèlè! That’s the particular phrase I hear whenever my mom tunes into 107.5FM on her wine-colored rechargeable lantern that doubles as a radio. In the early 2000s, it was a popular craze to have that wine-marked rechargeable lamp in a family: count yourself “hip” if you could boast about having such a gadget to your friends. It was for the cool people, so we thought.
“Eko Wengele” translates from Yoruba to mean “Lagos, so full of character and drama”. Repeated in a mishmash of voices emanating from the radio advertisement, the phrase embodies the spirit of the city of Lagos itself. Just as the voices on the radio, Lagos is filled with interested nooks and crannies around every corner, each with a story to tell.
Curiosity meets opportunity. “Open House Lagos”, the first ever open house event to be held in Africa, launched in Lagos in May 2016, offering visitors unprecedented access to some of Lagos’ undiscovered gems. Open House Lagos is a special celebration of the buildings, places and spaces where Lagosians live, work and play. As part of the British Council’s UK/Nigeria collaboration, Open House Lagos provides the opportunity to explore Lagos’ historic architecture and innovative urban design.
Nostalgia kicked in as I looked forward to witness my Lagos in a new and different way. Open House Lagos spotlighted historical landmarks such as the Nigerian Railway Compound, Locomotive Shed, Freedom Park, and the Central Mosque, alongside contemporary spaces that are defining a new Lagos such as Alara, the fashion concept store, and Maison Fahrenheit, the hotel and cocktail lounge. The fundamental concept of Open House Lagos was to encourage people to see and think about their environment in unpredictable ways, embracing the city’s history while at the same time imagine what the city can aspire to be in the future.
On my visit, I toured the H.O.M.S. in the Ijora-Badia area of the Lagos mainland, where I discovered a
a government initiative that has been set up to support home ownership for first time buyers with accessible mortgage financing. I also visited The Heritage Place on Lagos Island, an ultra-modern, eco-friendly building that employs the latest design principles and state-of-the-art finishes.
While I had prepared for a flush of memories of my Lagos youth, I was instead placed in front of the new face of Lagos, one that I did not know even existed. In a city that is known for its socio-economic extremes, I was pleasantly surprised to learn about initiatives that were striving to create a more sustainable and inclusive city for all. Open House Lagos reveals that Lagos is always creating itself anew, as the city transforms itself in every blink of an eye. Eko Wèngèlè!