A Society Rising


A young man stands with two women in matching outfits. The scenery behind them is well-kept. Note the cut stone corner on the building to the right, a sure sign of Western construction preferences.


There is a lot going on in this picture. Men and women go about their business in the town, while children dash across the street. The radio tower in the background was an essential part of African culture. Literacy rates were still low, and newspaper penetration was limited, so the radio was used as a nation-building tool. Those old radio towers have now been mostly replaced by cell towers.


A man reads a newspaper.


An independence Day parade. Local dignitaries ride in the car, as women walk behind, singing and dancing. Hope for the new nation was strong, and the country’s leaders promised a new, better, independent future. The joy and optimism you see here has largely dissipated, the victim of widespread corruption, mismanagement, tribalism, and military dictatorships.


A horseman prepares to ride in the parade. Note the intricate bridle around the horses neck, covered with cowry shells. This was almost certainly made domestically, and shows real craftsmanship.


The horsemen ride forward. The high-tension power-lines in the background provide great context. Even in 1961, the country was steadily acquiring the trappings of modern Western society.


Older men, perhaps war veterans or chiefs, walk ahead of an Independence Day parade. I am informed by a reader that these men wearing medals were most likely members of the Royal West African Frontier Force. The red and black hats the men are wearing are a style that has persisted in Nigeria for generations. Nowadays, my tribe has a penchant for white and black striped cloth hats, very different from the ones seen here.



Men play a large wooden xylophone.


Mkar Church. This area has since turned into a fully urban area, with a large hospital, administrative buildings, and markets surrounding it. In the first days my mother was there, it was most likely one of the biggest buildings in the area.


The United Africa Company was active in the 18-1900s. Although a private mercantile company in the beginning, it eventually acted as an arm of the British Empire in West Africa, helping to cut off German access to that part of the continent. I wonder in my mother realized the significance of the company when she took this picture. The All Peace sign painted in the rear window of the car on the left is a great example of hand-painted typography.