Photograph — Ventures Africa

Everyone passing by wanted to know why a group of people wearing the same type of branded t-shirts were painting a section of one of the buildings in Oshodi market on a hot, sunny afternoon. People gathered round, intrigued and discussing the unusual scene amongst themselves. “Is it the government that is doing it?” a passerby stopped to ask me. “No”, I replied, “it’s an NGO called Lofelofe, and they’re doing it for free.” He seemed impressed, told us “well done” and continued on his way.

Between April 5 and 21, Lofelofe.com, with the support of the Lagos State Ministry of Environment, will be giving Oshodi a facelift through its Paint the City community project which will manifest artistically in its surrounding market buildings and road structures. Paint the City – Oshodi aims at encouraging members of the community to approach their environment with a fresh and improved perspective while also enhancing the quality of their own lives with the help of colours.

If you stand on the bridge when all the painting is done you’ll see a layer of multi-colours.

Lofelofe.com founder, Funmi Odushola, explained how the way your environment looks affects your mood and ultimately your behaviour, and why Paint the City both helps to change that and promotes one thing she grew up around and misses – a communal environment. “I grew up in a Lagos where the neighbours could have been my parents. I think that we’re losing that,” she laments, “These days, people don’t care what happens to their neighbours or their neighbour’s kids.”

Paint the City’s idea is to make Oshodi bright in order to influence the general mood in the vicinity with an ‘ulterior motive’ of engaging the people in the community there and understanding them. This understanding, according to Funmi, is the first step towards accomplishing bigger things. Hopefully, with this project a communal ambience can be restored where people take ownership of their community and the people in them.

The painting is being carried out by volunteers, some are professional painters and artists but most are random individuals from within and outside the Oshodi area. Over 90 buckets of the paints being used for the project were donated by Triton International. The project will also involve beautifying Oshodi with greenery. Interested participants in the project that reside outside Oshodi will, however, have to register first with Lofelofe.

Volunteers at the Paint the City - Oshodi community project.
Volunteers at the Paint the City – Oshodi community project.

Lofelofe as a social enterprise started with a simple idea – going to people and asking them what they have that they don’t need and redirecting those items to people who need them the most. What’s interesting about it is that the people doing the giving are not necessarily rich. At some point, even orphanages were calling Lofelofe saying that they had clothes to spare.

Last year, the organisation put Food Kitchen together in Agege as part of its efforts to reach out to communities and improve lives. At Food Kitchen, doctors from the Lagos University Teaching Hospital volunteered to give free medical tests, while Falma Organics, a pharmaceutical company, gave out free drugs. Also at the event, there was a stand for toys, clothes, shoes, and books for everyone with a canopy giving out meals.

Unexpectedly, the event paved the way for several individuals from Agege to receive offers from various companies to train them in different skills that would serve as a means of livelihood for them. Funmi says that her organisation will be repeating Food Kitchen again this year and Paint the City will certainly be happening again next year.

There are also plans to implement more programmes to help with youth employment and education in the future. “We could do this project anywhere, but we prefer to do it in a less privileged area where it would be most appreciated.” The reaction of the people to the painting scene in Oshodi market yesterday afternoon already makes her statement true, as people stopped by to ask for brushes to join in. A young man even opined, “Wetin we dey do now? Make we paint Lagos.”

As the painting commenced, Mr. Osifesan Ayodele, the Head of Public Complaint Division in the Ministry of Environment called the group of market traders who occupy the area that was being worked on together. He asked them if they appreciated the work that is being done, and when they replied in the affirmative he implored that they do their best to always make sure that it looked good. To which they promised.

A volunteer working at the Paint the City - Oshodi project.
A volunteer working at the Paint the City – Oshodi project.

Funmi states that there have been calls from other African countries asking Lofelofe bring Paint the City to them. “But, I’m like let’s finish with Lagos first”, she laughs, “then we can think of expanding. It’s a good feeling though, and it’s highly encouraging.”

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