I left Nigeria when I migrated to the states at seven, and have yet to return. But, one way I stay connected is by watching videos and photography of Nigeria, and seeing how it has changed. Within the past couple of years, Africa, especially Ghana and Nigeria have become popular tourist destinations. Celebs like Diddy, Diggy Simons, and Bria Myles who frequently vacation in either Ghana or Nigeria, are among those who have helped highlight what the continent has to offer. Through their Instagram post and Snap chat stories they have helped highlight the luxury that is often excluded in the African narrative, and show that the continent is more than the stereotypical Western narratives of poverty and war. Yet it was photographer Nwagbara’s documentation of his trip home that made me miss home the most.
Digital Photographer Daniel Udoka Nwagbara, more commonly known as DNPH on Instagram, shared on his Instagram page, a series of video and photography documenting his trip home to Nigeria. Documentation of the trip was filled with images of locals, landmarks, street vendors, and family. Nwagbara documented his stay in the cities of Lagos and Owerri, as well as his stay in his tribal village where he visited his Grandfather's compound, and his grandparents final resting place.
Nwagbara, in his images captured Nigeria for what it truly was and is. From the bustling of the cities, to the calm of the village, his narrative moved me. Because while yes, I am proud of the wealth that is finally being highlighted, that is only a third of the picture. Nawagbara's experience was real, raw and authentic. It is the re-connection to our African roots, we all search for. He captured the true essence of the country, from the sunset on the beach, to the marketplace, the bars, the busy road ways, and the street vendors that hustle from sunup to sundown.
Through his work, I was inspired me to craft five tips, on cultivating a true experience when visiting. While most African tourist destinations are centered within West Africa, these tips can be used wherever in the continent you’re visiting.
Visit the Village:
The one thing you must do is visit the villages. If you are lucky enough to know the specific tribe or land you’re from, go there, if you not, don’t worry! Do a little research on the different tribes and tribal land before you go, and make time to visit the one that speaks most to you. While there talk to the people, the elders, and the old women. Visit the palace if they have one or the town meeting space. These people will all have stories to share, listen. It is within these stories, that we find something that resonates. On his trip home, Nawagbara visited the place where the name Nawagbara originated from. There is something about the village that reconnects us to our ancestors. The city is nice, but the real experience is hidden in the village.
Eat from the local Vendors:
When you go, opt out of eating at fancy restaurants to eat at the local bars or street vendors. Suya, is best when it comes fresh on a newspaper, take my word for it, 6 year old me remembers. But no really, eating from local spots is the best. For one it’s cheaper, but most importantly you experience the local cuisine in a more authentic way. Talk to the people you meet there, and get to know them. What can they tell you? Ask the owner about the food, how they make it, what are the spices. These are tangible memories you can bring home with you. One of the things I loved about Nwagbara’s trip home was I never saw him eating at a “fancy” spot. He was always at the local bar eating fried ramen with his cousins, or with his aunts who didn’t let him leave until his plate was finished.
Visit the Market Place:
I still hold memories of the Marketplace from when I was younger , and when I see pictures of it, I miss it even more. This is another great way to get to know the people, and the culture. The spices, the food, fabrics, there is something for everyone who visits. There is a treasure hidden somewhere in the marketplace waiting to come home with you. My mom tells me stories of when she was a little girl helping her mother sell dried fish at the Market. It is part of the culture, and something I aim to experience for myself on day.
Utilize The Okada Man:
Okada may not be the safest way to travel, but I promise you it is the most liberating. Okada is a taxi, but in motorcycle form. Not saying that Okada is the most comfortable form of transportation, but it is the one that cultivates the best experience. You get to see and enjoy the scenery and landscape riding with the Okada man. They may take a route that you might not have known to take by yourself. Also, when else will you ever get to be on the back of a motorcycle?
There is nothing wrong with traveling for luxury, but try to learn something new while there. While on the back of Okada, if you ride by a spot that intrigues you, ask them to stop. Go to the festivals, and talk to the people there. You get nothing from a vacation, if you only stay on the resort. Now If your goal is relaxation, that’s fine too. But to truly gain something, one must engage with the environment and people.
When you visit, please speak to the Natives! You are a visitor, this their home, all you will ever need to know, comes from the locals. If you listen closely and ask enough questions there a wealth of knowledge you would be bringing back with you. I love how Nwagbara immersed himself in the experience, he gained and shared so much, that I was inspired to go home as soon a possible. Africa in her developmental state is raw, but she is beautiful, and she should be experienced in her entirety. When you go make sure you try everything! Meet everyone, and come back with memories that you for sure will never forget.
(The pictures used in this are credited to Daniel Udoka Nwagbara, for more pictures please visit his website udoka.co or check out his instagram @dnph)