I, Francis, have been working with documentary photographer, Christopher Onah since November 2018, on his ongoing project, Kole-Kole (Earth Pushers). The word “Kole-Kole” means truck pushers in the Yoruba language. It’s a visual story that gives insight into the lives of those ‘disadvantaged’ people who had for many years depend on collecting human and industrial waste materials as a source of livelihood; although Christopher Onah shares their toil and frustration with us and why these waste collectors’ business has been threatened by economic and environmental activities around the city of Lagos–a heavily, populated metropolis as seen by its many enlarging slums, stagnant ditches and waste areas usually discovered as you walk some tarred roads, public facilities, schools, and even hospitals.
Early in 2018, the authorities of the city enacted an environmental law banning the indiscriminate disposal of wastes, and more excruciating is “criminalizing” the source of livelihood of the local waste collectors instead of integrating them into a well-tailored, sustainable system. It was utterly difficult as Christopher approached these waste pushers to photograph because of language barriers; and they couldn’t understand why he had to embark on such a significant journey with them, telling their stories through photography.
For Christopher, photography helps to find truth and meaning in life; “to help project positives of every individual, group and objects that I find myself photographing and to help them conquer their fear of living and become the best vision of themselves. My style of documentary focuses on social issues, culture, and everyday rawness of life, it a recording of today’s moment for tomorrow’s history.”
“Photography, for me, is an important element to help me mediate between life and death.”
Christopher Onah was obsessed with this question: “What does it mean for cities, if they cannot provide systems for its people; does it resort to excluding other members of the society as a means of “Cleaner Spaces”? And, for me, Personally, I have been cocooned in an Impact Journey that tries to look for the mended bridges between the owners of a city and how it treats its dwellers. This is only a preview of the ongoing project Kole-Kole and hope to be able to show more in coming months.
Christopher Onah is a Lagos based Street and Documentary photographer from Nigeria, he got the inspirations to focus on the now, which is incredibly valuable for the future. Before starting as a documentary photographer, Christopher Onah has spent some time to understand the art and acts of documenting people and invading into their private lives. After which Chris Onah have attended workshops with Gary Knight, Tom Saater, Bayo Omoboriowo, Uche Okpa-Iroha. Chris Onah, presently, is running a 5 years mentorship program with The Nlele Institute on critical writing and documentary.