City of Lagos, Nigeria, circa 1967
How does one translate Oge? Reluctantly, I had agreed to receive the newly crowned, new-generation Sisi Oge—Lady of Chic?—of Lagos. She wanted my advice on the social agenda for her year on the throne. With her “court”—photographer, chaperone, press secretary, etc.—she turned up in a small convoy of cars, head framed in a tiny coronet. As we sat in my home of dense foliage, any semblance of which had long vanished from most of Lagos, I listened to their dreams, wistfully pondering—were these young enthusiasts the hidden spirit of Lagos, a butterfly seeking to break free of its cocoon?
The Lagos of my childhood was a well-laid-out maritime city. The adventurer Leo Frobenius fantasized the lost city of Atlantis sunken in its bay. Washed by the Atlantic, pocked by lagoons, and veined by canals through which canoes plied a steady commerce with inland riverine settlements, memories of that past provided the setting for my radio play A Scourge of Hyacinths.