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Saturday – To market, to market…

January 28, 2006

Jonathan, who’s invited us for dinner at his place tomorrow night, has offered to take Duncan and me to the market this morning and to an art gallery this afternoon. A text from Duncan first thing tells me he has a blinding headache and will have to take a pass on the morning’s outing.

Jonathan collects me, heading first for his home, an apartment five minutes’ walk from the hotel, as he needs to pick up Selma and give her a ride to the UN office. This turns out to be a fortress like edifice set well apart from any other buildings.

Abuja market

Abuja market

The market is huge. We head first to the produce section, pausing to hire one of the many barrow boys who follow you around, collecting your purchases. In its heyday I don’t imagine Covent Garden could have competed with the size and variety of food on offer. After haggling over various fruit and veg purchases, we head off to buy wine and then to fetch some beer, sold in crates at a huge depot. Guinness, I’ve discovered, is surprisingly popular and manufactured under license in Nigeria. Too bloody heavy for me in this temperature. I’ll stick with the lager.

After all of this is packed in the car it’s time for my search: CDs and fabric. Femi Kuti is top of the CD list, but I also have some recommendations from Godwin to track down. I leave with more than I’d planned to buy, paying more than I’d intended, but what the hell, they’re only two quid each. If a couple are duds, no problem. The fabric is more of a challenge. No sight of any of the wonderful floral prints I’d admired in the north. Closest I get is actually curtain fabric. Get the guy down from 450 naira a yard to 350, but still isn’t what I had in mind, so we try a few other places. Success at the last one. Not a floral print, but a vibrant black on crimson red tie dye. The woman running the stall wants 2800 naira for six yards. Too much I say. Get her down to 2400 which Jonathan later tells me is a successful haggle. God knows what I’ll do with it, but it’s beautiful.

The gallery in the afternoon is interesting. It’s one of several crafts workshops set up by a southern female chief named Nike where young people learn to paint, sculpt, dye and work with fabric. We get a demonstration of how indigo dye is made. For some reason I’d always thought it was based on octopus excretion (wonder what that colour is?), but no it’s from the indigo plant. The only thing I can afford are the 200 naira key chains. I buy three.

Duncan, who’s head has also precluded the afternoon outing, is feeling a bit better but sensibly decides that live music is probably not the answer to the problem.

Blake’s Most Excellent Bar

Blake’s Most Excellent Bar

Sam and Dan collect me about nine and we head to Blake’s Most Excellent Bar. It is indeed most excellent, an outdoor bar with a live band playing a fantastic jazz/reggae/ska mix. A variety of singers take turns at the mike, doing everything from James Brown and Tina Turner to Bob Marley to Nigerian rap. I am enchanted and even get a few dances in. Sam tells me I’m a good dancer. Maybe he’s just being polite, but I still take it as a compliment.

From → Nigeria

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