The Beauty of the Struggle
Lagos, Nigeria, is a city that will swallow you whole.
The dense, sprawling metropolis is one of the fastest growing cities in the world and home to an estimated 21 million people. It’s also the gravitational center of the country’s thriving music, film, and fashion scenes.
For filmmaker and photographer Dafe Oboro, the vibrant chaos and daily hustle required to survive are part of the beauty and frustration of living—and creating—in Lagos.
“There’s a complete lack of structure,” he says. “It is a place of fluidity that moves and carries its people rather than the other way around. Almost every street bears a semblance to a creative backdrop. At the same time, Lagos is a giant that one can easily be lost in, or carried away by, due to the unscrupulous nature of the city. Most of the time it serves as inspiration, but it can be quite overwhelming.”
Like the city he lives and works in, Oboro’s films are vibrantly colored and filled with a cacophony of sound, languages, and music. “There is a rich urban culture and life around me that is constantly moving and I find that there is so much detail and so much story in everything that moves,” he says.
His latest film, A Beautiful Struggle, is a portrait of a young musician who migrates from the countryside in hopes of making a name for himself in the overstimulated, unforgiving streets of Lagos. The film is a collaboration with famed textile brand Vlisco.
Like the city itself, fashion plays a central character in many of Oboro’s films. His work has included collaborations with Miu Miu, Nike, and designer Mowalola Ogunlesi. “Fashion functions outside a vacuum as a living thing that is constantly changing and evolving,” he explains. “That draws me to it. My style is very documentary and raw; I am intrigued by the fashion of that same like.”
Having earned broadcast journalism degree from Nottingham Trent University in England, it’s important to him that the stories he tells are honest. His films have addressed the demolition of the city’s massive slums and the cost to those who live there, issues of masculinity, and the loss of traditional ways of life in modern Lagos. “I always ask myself whether the story I’m trying to tell is important or relevant in a wider discourse, followed by whether it is balanced and conveys the story as honestly as possible.”
However, he doesn’t try to shoehorn his stories into a strict narrative. “Post-production is one of the most playful and fun parts of my filmmaking process,” he says. “I allow myself to play around with the footage, starting with my favorite shots and building on those. I find that strictly adhering to a script can often hinder the creative process, because it forces the raw material you have into rigidity.”