Mary Uduru, roadside chef
April 11, 2007 5:25 PM   Subscribe

Mary Uduru of Nigeria. Although we see lots of single-image representations of African poverty (usually in the form of a swollen-bellied child on the brink of starvation) it's rare to find a photo-essay like this one one, which brings us an intimate, informative and non-sensationalist view of the life of the working poor there.
posted by flapjax at midnite (22 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
There are probably lots of people in the U.S. whose lives are just as miserable. People who struggle pay rent, and other bills each month. They might have more disposable income for minor luxuries, probably have food security but probably don't even have health insurance. Poverty really is relative.

Obviously, complete social breakdown (such as a civil war) can cause much, much greater hardships. Hurricane Katrina was bad, but imagine if help never came. That kind of societal breakdown is not what we're seeing here.

Compare her story to that of a migrant farm worker here in the US
posted by delmoi at 6:04 PM on April 11, 2007


There are probably lots of people in the U.S....


Tangential, dismissive, and missing the essence of the post as is often the case.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:05 PM on April 11, 2007


Tangential, dismissive, and missing the essence of the post as is often the case.

Perhaps you could explain it to me then, hmm?
posted by delmoi at 6:11 PM on April 11, 2007


But -- no foolin' -- where's the recipe?

(See also this interesting essay on Lagos that was posted to this thread about Nigeria.)
posted by kmennie at 7:09 PM on April 11, 2007


I am with Burganistan - Delmoi's statement they don't even have health insurance is really ignorant of the reality of African poverty.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 7:18 PM on April 11, 2007


Sorry Burhanistan
posted by Samuel Farrow at 7:21 PM on April 11, 2007


We have BurgerStans in Burhanistan. It is one of the USA brand knock-off remnants of Soviet Russia.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:31 PM on April 11, 2007


I am with Burganistan - Delmoi's statement they don't even have health insurance is really ignorant of the reality of African poverty.

Africa has a number of different countries, each with different conditions the "reality of African poverty" is about as general as "the reality of poverty in the Americas." There is obviously poverty in Nigeria, as there is in many other countries. And it's most likely more widespread.

Extreme poverty is normally caused by conflict, but that's not what you're seeing here.

Anyway, at least I had something to say, if you feel I'm missing the "essence" of the piece, or misunderstand the "reality" perhaps you could post more then a sentence or two to actually explain why you disagree with me, spesifically.
posted by delmoi at 7:47 PM on April 11, 2007


I think delmoi makes a good point. We are usually inundated with the image he referred to of the African baby with the swollen belly... when that makes sense. Apparently in this case, it made sense to show a woman of strength who was making it work as best she can.

She looks capable and competant, albeit poor. Does that mean that all Africans are capable, competant and poor? Hell NO! Nor does it mean that ALL Americans live with what most Americans take for granted.

To Samuel Farrow and BurgerStans;), at least in this particular case, we were looking at THIS woman, and so many like her in Africa. Delmoi went on to ask us to imagine a similar American face....capable, competant and poor.
posted by Penny Wise at 7:56 PM on April 11, 2007


Ok, fine. It's a big world and delmoi can have his cake too. It's just a humanizing glimpse at a person from a place that people usually gloss over.

I'm going to have a tasy BurgerStan burger. All halal of course, even the bacon.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:00 PM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but do you have $100 laptops in Burhanistan?
posted by YoBananaBoy at 8:04 PM on April 11, 2007


We make our own from donkey carts and yurt walls, thank you very much.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:08 PM on April 11, 2007


Okay me too. But as one more shout from the cheap seats - Africa is the poorest in habited continent on earth, by a long, long margin. The reality of African poverty isn't even the same sport as the reality of American poverty.

As Delmoi said initially: poverty is relative and the average US citizen lives a life of unsustainable luxury, relatively speaking.

Halal bacon! Rock on.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 8:24 PM on April 11, 2007


I posted the New Yorker article in the AskMeFi thread earlier. It's worth checking out.

I found some other interesting Nigeria links:

Oyibosonline is basically a message board for expats living and working in Nigeria. The upcoming election seems to have everyone worried.

Bergen Risk Solutions has kindly put together a map of recent attacks against foreigners.

In this thread, a 40-year-old American says he wants to retire to Lagos, and asks local expats for advice. They say he should seek a psychiatrist.

Here's the Flickr Lagos cluster....
posted by KokuRyu at 8:59 PM on April 11, 2007


As Delmoi said initially: poverty is relative and the average US citizen lives a life of unsustainable luxury, relatively speaking.

Well, that's true but it's not what I meant to say. There really are people in the U.S. who's lives are as hard as this woman's, particularly Mexican migrant laborers. I read a great article a couple months back that followed a family from Mexico and it was pretty awful stuff. This woman has a lot more security then they did. Unless the price of beans skyrockets, or people stop traveling along that road with enough money to pay her (or she gets sick) she'll be OK. That's better then some people in the United States.

Different places have different problems; it's annoying to see a context free discussion of "African poverty" that deals with the whole continent as if it were one giant country. Nigeria doesn't need debt relief or foreign aide. It has tons of Oil money. What it needs is a better way to distribute it, and some way to reduce the crippling corruption. Labor costs are low, but it's so corrupt that operating costs for business are as high as they are here, because you have to bribe so many people.

Here's the Flickr Lagos cluster....

Ah, the ugly American
posted by delmoi at 9:12 PM on April 11, 2007


how do you know he is American? And why are you going on about America in a post about Nigeria?

Interesting post. Thanks.
posted by dydecker at 9:21 PM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


From the New Yorker article:

"...A Hausa youth saw a Yoruba youth squatting over a gutter on the street and demanded, "Why are you shitting there?" In a city where only 0.4 per cent of the inhabitants have a toilet connected to a sewer system, it was more of a provocation than a serious question."
posted by KokuRyu at 9:21 PM on April 11, 2007


how do you know he is American? And why are you going on about America in a post about Nigeria?

Perhaps Delmoi is trolling?
posted by KokuRyu at 9:22 PM on April 11, 2007


how do you know he is American? And why are you going on about America in a post about Nigeria?

Uh, I was joking. Also, looking through his other pictures I'd guess he's French. Not really sure though.
posted by delmoi at 11:03 PM on April 11, 2007


"We're number one! We're number one! Yeah! Even in poverty! USA! USA! USA!"
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:09 AM on April 12, 2007


UbuRoivas, are you an expat or do you live in Sydney, Nebraska?
posted by Cranberry at 12:18 AM on April 12, 2007


Just ignore the kneejerk comparison to US poverty.

This is a great post of an example of daily life in Nigeria. These people don't have ERs to go to which will serve them regardless of ability to pay. They don't have access to free or long term financed education. They don't even have anything to use such education for if it was available. There's no running water. I could go on for a while on that tack.

When you have to haul your water, cook your food over fires instead of burners, wash your clothes manually, and other such mundane tasks, when do you have time for anything else?

It's stories like these that make me really wish there was something I could do. I'm just not sure what it is. I've heard so many stories about how Peace Corps people just end up finding out how futile the whole enterprise is, how foreign charity money just gets funneled into the wrong hands, etc.

What can be done about a country that just can't bring itself out of a vicious cycle of corruption and inequity?

What about going to a place like this and starting a business, employing local workers at a good living wage. Would you be shot, or run out of town, or something worse? Sometimes I think though that it's that kind of seeding that could really bring a place out of this type of perpetual poverty. It wouldn't be so much the cash infusion that would help, but rather the example that you could set for others. Pay your best workers enough that they have money to fund their own business... Ah it's really a half-baked idea.

Great post. Made me think, at least.
posted by zhivota at 1:05 AM on April 13, 2007


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