Cowboy Snippets: Rem Koolhaas and Kunle Adeyemi in the Guardian (UK)
This is Kunle Adeyemi and Rem Koolhaus talking about Lagos in the 1990s in a feature for the Guardian (UK) that was published 26 February 2016.
Note, how Adeyemi here uses the term 'cowboy' in sense that, at first side, owes little to American Westerns (unlike Sam Omatseye's article that relates 'the cowboy' of movies and TV serials to 'the Fulani herdsmen – inverted commas in both cases because, obviously, we're talking in terms of archetypes here rather than particular people or groups of people in particular films or in real life) but has quite a bit of currency in writing by and about Nigeria.
Kunlé Adeyemi: You have to put it in context. In 1997, Lagos was still very much under the radar; in the architectural world for sure, but in the wider world too.
RK: Nigeria was a blank on the map – there weren’t even any maps. The US State Department, everyone said don’t go there. It was courageous of Harvard University: the notion was that we would match Harvard students with Nigerian students, so that every student would have a guide, creating a guarantee of intimacy with the city. Kunlé was one of the students we recruited locally. But Lagos at that point was not very inviting even to Lagosians. It was considered a no-go zone, almost in its entirety.
KA: The security risk was a lot higher then. There was a lot of crime in several pockets, and it was a very difficult city to navigate. You needed to be a real cowboy to go to Lagos.
RK: And there were simply no maps. It was all rumour, an unbelievable amount of rumour – largely about crime and almost mythical manifestations of evil.
KA: Because the city has become more stable, there’s now a greater drive even for things that were previously unimaginable, like tourism. The minister of tourism is really working hard to change the perception of Lagos, and actually use the attributes of Lagos as an attraction point. I really admire that.
One of the things he says is that Lagos is such an energetic city: whether in terms of culture or other activities, people like to go out. So let Lagos have big huge parties and celebrate! I think that’s great.
Another friend of mine says there are two types of people who come to Lagos: the intellectuals, who really want to understand it, really want to solve it; and the cowboys, the entrepreneurs, who want to make money. So it’s a place of opportunity for both intellectuals and cowboys, and I think that’s such a great idea.