December 10, 2008 / 9:46 PM / 10 years ago

Kids with cameras capture Nigeria's poverty gap

LAGOS (Reuters Life!) - Hundreds of Nigerian kids from the richest and poorest homes in Lagos have documented their lives in a photo exhibition meant to help educate people about the extreme poverty gap in Africa’s most populous nation.

A boy kicks a ball in Iwaya, one of the poorest areas of Lagos, in this undated photograph taken by a child, part of an exhibition in which hundreds of Nigerian kids from the richest and poorest homes in Lagos have documented their lives through pictures. REUTERS/Maxim Zannu/Handout

Around 200 children aged 7-14 from a private school in the exclusive Ikoyi district, an orphanage, and a school in Iwaya, one of the poorest areas of Lagos, were given cameras for a weekend to take pictures of their homes and environment.

More than 400 of the best images are on display at a culture center in Lagos in an exhibition meant to bring together kids from diverse backgrounds and remind adults that their city is home to ramshackle shanties as well as gleaming skyscrapers.

“Iwaya is a 15 minute drive from Ikoyi, where children go to school in luxury cars, while in Iwaya they go to school by canoe,” said Ete Ayida, founder of the African Child Development Initiative (ACDI) charity behind the project.

“One part of the project is to bring awareness that there are some children less fortunate than others,” she said.

The photos show two extremes of life in Lagos, a vast city of 14 million people where some of Africa’s most expensive real estate, inhabited by oil tycoons and bankers, sits alongside wooden huts built on stilts over the lagoon.

The “My Home” category includes pictures of luxuriously furnished villas as well as shots of children performing daily chores in the Iwaya fishing community, such as fetching water from a slow-dripping tap in the muddy back streets.

“I took pictures of animals, food we eat, our bedsheets and our pillows and other things. Even green leaves, water that lives around us,” said Tobi Aguntor, 13, who lives in Iwaya.

Despite the differing backgrounds, the images convey much that the children have in common.

One picture shows two kids playing table-tennis using an old door balanced on stools as the table and bits of broken wood as the bats. Another shows a boy kicking a football in golden evening sunshine on the edge of the lagoon.

Nigeria is sub-Saharan Africa’s second-biggest economy, home to its largest oil and gas industry, some of its leading banks and some of its wealthiest entrepreneurs.

Yet it ranks 158th out of 177 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index, with more than 92 percent of its 140 million people living on less than $2 a day.

ACDI ( was set up to stimulate the intellectual potential of children from under-privileged backgrounds in Lagos and some of those who took part in the competition were given tuition in basic photography.

Maxim Zannu, an 11-year old from Iwaya who was judged to have taken the best photos, said he had already run into the sorts of problems familiar to professional photographers.

“When I was snapping school books I was happy ... but when I was snapping some people they were complaining about why am I snapping them,” Zannu said.

But his enthusiasm was not dimmed.

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“I want to be a photographer when I grow up,” he said.

* To see some of the photos from the exhibition, which is running at the Terra Kulture center in Lagos until December 14, click here: here

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Editing by Paul Casciato

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