Photo exhibition at the ASC: The Spiritual Highway: Religious World Making in Megacity Lagos

The Spiritual Highway: Religious World Making in Megacity Lagos
Photographs by Akintunde Akinleye, curated by Marloes Janson

Together with the award-winning Nigerian photographer Akintunde Akinleye, anthropologist Dr. Marloes Janson hit the road in the summer of 2013 to map the most important and busiest Nigerian road - the 120-kilometer long Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. While it has failed as the artery linking the north and the south of Nigeria, the highway has succeeded as a stage for the performance of public religiosity to the extent that it can be described as a 'Spiritual Highway'. It owes this name to the fact that over the past three decades numerous Christian and Muslim prayer camps have sprung up along the highway. Despite the sharp division between Muslims and Christians in Nigerian society, the photographs visualize that the prayer camps have much in common in terms of both activities and discourse. The convergence of Christian and Muslim elements makes the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway a true crossroads. At this crossroads prayer camps act as road-builders in rendering meaningful the unstable flux of life in megacity Lagos. 

The exhibition can be seen in the ASC Library (ground floor) and in the corridors at the third floor from 1 July until 30 September. An exhibition catalogue (€ 7,50) is available.

At the ASC seminar on 17 September, Dr. Janson will discuss the conversion of Nigeria’s former capital, Lagos – often described as an ‘apocalyptic megacity’ – into a Prayer City.

Akintunde Akinleye Akinleye is an award winning photographer who lives in Lagos and works for Reuters in Nigeria. He was awarded a prize in the prestigious World Press Photo contest in the Netherlands in 2007 with an iconic photograph of a man rinsing soot from his face at the scene of an oil pipeline explosion in Lagos, December 2006. It was the beauty of a tragedy which claimed the lives of 269 people that made the official signage of the 19th edition of international photojournalism festival in perpignan, France in 2007. An award fellow of the National Geographic Society- All Roads photo project, Akinleye has attended conferences and seminars in editorial and documentary photography in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Lagos. He was a resident fellow of the Thami Mnyele Art foundation in Amsterdam and has had his work exhibited in Washington, Los Angeles, New Mexico, Lagos, Amsterdam, Graz, Bamako,Madrid, Munich, U.K and Pordenone in Italy.

Marloes Janson, SOAS London Dr Janson's research is at the intersection of anthropology and religion. West Africa (the Gambia, Senegal and Nigeria) are her ethnographic areas of specialization. She has conducted ethnographic research in the Gambia since 1996 on various research projects relating to popular culture, oral history, Islamic reform, gender and youth. In 2010 Dr Janson switched her research field to Lagos, Nigeria, where she is exploring the emergence of Chrislam, a religious movement that fuses Christian and Muslim beliefs and practices. Her research interests are reflected in her teaching. Before joining SOAS in 2012, she has been a researcher at the Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO) in Berlin.

Date, time and location

01 July 2015 to 30 September 2015