Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. The sound of the minuscule pieces of gravel and mini-stones between the grooves of the Izuzu tires echoed like a cacophony of obscure outside noises. It was a virtual crunch fest. The Toyota Camry slowed to a screeching halt. The doors were flung open; as we descended from the car like plebeian royals.
Folas’ pieces of art were waiting for us and I couldn’t wait to feast my eyes on his creations. We had met at Art Café after I complimented his awesome dreadlocks. However, the dominant thought running through my mind was how the heck I was going to get into the gallery space in the first place. The obstacles seemed formidable – a gravelly driveway, a few steps spread far apart and an extremely uneven granite walkway.
“Okay, we need to figure this out. If I was up and walking, this driveway wouldn’t be an issue but alas, that is not my current reality,” I said, exasperated with the predicament. “Why don’t you scout ahead and decide the best place to set me down…hmmm? Let’s see if we can make this process as seamless as possible”. Kevwe nodded and proceeded towards the gallery, carefully culling through the mental snapshots, trying to decide the best place for the driver, Jonah, to set the wheelchair down – my mobile throne, waiting, ready for me to sit and judge the works of art. The edifice was a beige duplex with a balcony overlooking the garden of sunflowers, daisies, aloe vera and roses dotted amongst the palm trees. A couple of coconuts had fallen onto the lawn. From the outsiders’ perspective, it seemed like a mini-oasis amidst the chaos of the Lagos metropolis.
A few minutes later, Kevwe strolled towards the car, with a mix of bewilderment and irascibility etched upon her face. “Guess what?” she said gesturing towards the walkway. “There are steps all the way to the translucent sliding door. Not to mention the yards of gravel which means we can’t use the wheelchair unless damaging the wheels is the order of the day.”
“Basically, I have to be carried on your back the entire way,” I said with a strong hint of annoyance. She sat in between my legs, placed each on either side of her and lifted me with little effort. Thank you Elitebox Fitness for the weight loss, grateful to my boxing coach for our intense sparring sessions. As we ascended the walkway, I admired the wall of hydrangeas on the right side. “At least the scenery is pretty nice to look at.” The fusion of rose, cerulean and jade was both eye-catching and mesmerising.
My tummy rumbled and gurgled, signally that it was ready for lunch. With sushi on my mind, we arrived at the gallery entrance. The wheelchair cushion had provided a soft landing. Looking around for the artist, Fola, my head swiveled around with furtive glances. Since he couldn’t be found, I focused on the contemporary piece of work in front of me. A metal man encased in marble, sculpted to perfection. Pieces of string hung from jagged edges of steel, protruded from the man, the entire thing twirling around on a moving platform. The sculpture titled “the Lost Man” was a metaphor for the exploitative commercialization of modernisation. I was moved.
The rest of the collection was auditory and visual representations of disparate tenets of society. My tummy groaned; a clarion call beckoning to anyone who was nearby that lunchtime was nigh and imminent. Efforts to find Fola were doubled and finally I caught a glimpse of him speaking with the gallery owner. He saw me and beamed from ear to ear. We grinned at each other. He hopped over and I congratulated him on a job well done. The series was complex, insightful, perspicacious and provocative. The gallery owner strutted his stuff and came to join the convo. Unbeknownst to him, I was ready to incite a discussion about the wheelchair unfriendliness of Omenka. I gave it no stars out of five because it was completely inaccessible. Emphasis on the word completely.
“Did you know I had to be carried on my carer’s back the entire time? The steps, the gravel; everything is screaming at me not to come here. Seriously, what are you going to do about it?” He apologized profusely and said he was open to any suggestions I might have. At this time, I thought it was the perfect segue into mentioning that I had an architect in my arsenal that is ready to design cost-efficient ways to modify a place for greater accessibility. We decided to keep the convo on the topic of disability affairs. We talked about the plight of inaccessibility in Lagos, nay Nigeria, as a whole.
About ten minutes later, we decided to leave the land of art and focus on the journey ahead to Izanagi for sushi.