I was lost in amazement, enraptured by the swelling blue sea, caressed and cuddled by the sweeping puff of cool breeze, and staring blankly at the sandy beach dotted here and there by tourists, tanning in the sweet Saturday noon sun. A set of fishing canoes rested near the sea shore, where the raging bulge of blue waters crash and crush upon soft sands and form foams and salt-soaked mud…
“Oga check painting o!” ….”Oga see fine painting o!” ….“for your sitting room and bedroom” … ”Oga see naa!”
His words startled me and yanked me out of my dreamy state. I turned my head towards the caller just beneath the beach house where I stood. The beach house, built of bamboo and sewn wood and roofed with dried palm fronds, creaked and squeaked under my weight. It seemed I had booked the oldest beach house at Eleko Beach. Some rungs on its ladder-like staircase had fallen off, and some of the bamboo balusters supporting the top railings were also missing. “Anyways, it’s a good justification for its relatively cheap price,” I had tried consoling myself earlier; and why would I bother my head? A big wrap of steaming hot Súyà sat beside me, neighbored by cans of cold soft drink dripping blankets of slush from top to base. I was simply enjoying the life of my head atop the precariously standing bamboo beach house.
I couldn’t make out the face of the caller. The set of multihued and intriguing mixed-media oil paintings he held in his two hands caught my eyes. I immediately got lost in another round of day dream.
“Oga come and buy naa,” he called out again. He knew he had caught my attention and was going to maximize the opportunity. The dark tone of his skin marked a perfect background for the art works he held. His face would never be a distraction for his potential customers. I looked at him and he smiled and raised the paintings higher for me to see.
“I get more o, if you wan see,” he said, raising his right shoulder repeatedly. He had another stack of paintings hung on the shoulder.
I sighed, “Okay then, show me make I see,” I said.
Enthusiastically, he placed the two paintings he held initially on the plush beach sands and lifted the stack off his shoulder, unbound it and began to spread the remaining paintings on the sand, forming a rough oval shape before him. My eyes twinkled like the flame of a freshly-lit candle. I marveled at what lay beneath me. I descended the beach house to take a better look at the paintings. They looked beautiful. We bargained and haggled prices.
The paintings were ridiculously cheaper than those ones I had seen at art exhibitions and galleries all over the country. He explained how he had come all the way from Ile-Ife town in Osun State, down to Eleko Beach in Lagos to sell paintings. I asked why he didn’t go to places like Kuramo Beach, Oniru Beach or even Alfa Beach which are closer to the bustling Victoria Island city centre, receive more tourists and can easily be accessed instead of Eleko Beach which is at least 10km from the city. He then explained how he had noticed that passionate nature-loving Lagosians prefer to unwind at locations that are a little far-flung from the bustles of the city while providing similar basic amenities tourists need for recreation as they would get from those locations within the city itself.
“A beach like Eleko fits perfectly into that bracket,” he said. However, he later opened up and stated that his major reason for running away from those other crowded beaches is that he has less competition at a place like Eleko and would be easier for him to dominate the market here before the voracious eyes of other beach art-sellers discover the potential market looming here.
As I counted some naira notes to pay for the two paintings I picked, a human shadow sped towards our direction like a bee racing towards its honeycomb. I paused and looked up. The setting sun had cast the approaching Hausa man into a subtle silhouette in his flowing sky-blue Agbada and white traditional cap. He had bundles of beaded neck wear strung on one arm and lumps of uncountable beaded chains of various sizes, colours and lengths hanging from a pole on his other arm. He had spotted me from afar while haggling with the painter and counting cash and thought he could convince me to buy his beads. I laughed and thought, “if I no quick run comot here, these people go collect all the money wey dey my pocket today o!”
I admired his bead works but could not buy any of them. I struggled to appease my already allured heart and guilt-laden conscience. I had to let the bead seller go his way. A few moments later, another art peddler came again, displaying some small but dexterously carved crafts of painted wood. He smiled to me and asked if I wanted. I shook my head sadly.
The beach is indeed one of the coolest places to sell or buy art works. The space is unlimited. The air is fresh and pristine; and its ambience, juiced with the beautiful sun, enchanting waters and fascinating poise of dancing palm trees and the cuddling of its ever sweeping breeze, is just perfect enough to inspire any art lover and steal his heart away. So, why should you not buy arts and crafts at any Lagos Beach? It is only someone who is not crazy about arts and culture that’ll go chilling at any of those beaches and resist the pull of art peddlers passing by.
For tourists visiting Lagos, the beaches are a must go for sight-seeing and recreation and if you have a thing for art works and African souvenirs, you’ll likely find a seller or two at any of the beaches you visit. Haggle the prices well, but don’t leave the beach without buying those crafts. You’ll never regret you did, because anytime you set your eyes on those souvenirs, you’ll always be reminded of the day you had an encounter with nature, and with the enchanting sun, sea and sand of the West African beach.
“…As I counted some naira notes to pay for the two paintings I picked, a human shadow sped towards our direction like a bee racing towards its honeycomb. I paused and looked up. The setting sun had cast the approaching Hausa man into a subtle silhouette in his flowing sky-blue Agbada and white traditional cap. He had bundles of beaded neck wear strung on one arm …”
- Another art seller at the beach…. “if I no quick run comot here, these people go collect all the money wey dey my pocket today o!”