• Installation view, "King of Boys", 2015 "Potlatch", De Ateliers, Amsterdam
  • Film still - "King of Boys (Abattoir of Makoko)", 2015
  • Detail - "Red Bubble Mechanism" as used in "King of Boys)", 2015
  • Installation view, "King of Boys", 2015 "Potlatch", De Ateliers, Amsterdam

King of Boys (Abattoir of Makoko)

King of Boys (Abattoir of Makoko)


Running time:
5 minutes

HD digital film, colour with sound

Lagos, Nigeria

“King of Boys” – A street term given to a man in charge of a specific territory or group of “area boys” in Lagos, Nigeria.

“King of Boys” is a window into the abattoir of Makoko in Lagos, Nigeria.

The men butcher heads of bulls and rams. Decapitated heads with raging horns once brutal, docilely await the butcher’s block. Nothing is wasted; horns, offal, bone, skin, all destined for distinct uses. Deftly wielding heavy axes and large sharp knives, precision is key; A rhythm arises.

Spatially, almost mirroring the set-up of theatre in the round, butchers are grouped per task, with each group and its specificity of craft unfolding like scenes of a play. Animal skins boil in steaming vats of water over open fire, knives sharpen, noisily scraping the hairs off. Bones are hacked and horns attacked, decorating the ground like battlefield carnage.

The atmosphere is visually layered and aurally complex. A collage of gestures, a cacophony of noises: muffled conversation, footsteps of passers by, generators powering up, crackling fires boiling skins, relentless axes slamming into dense bone, the soundtrack from a nearby television set loudly playing a Nollywood movie.

“Red Bubble Mechanism” is an analogue filter device made from a large, found commercial beer keg. The keg is red, playfully “bubble shaped” and rotund, echoing once more, the spatiality of the abattoir’s stage.

Positioned on a wooden tripod, the mechanism is built with the ability to turn 360 degrees. A small window is cut out of the keg and the camera sits inside.

As the artist turns the mechanism, the camera shifts between a state of fantasy and reality, offering snippets of the real and engulfing us into the dream-like state of a red filtered world. Often, the camera reflects both worlds at once.

“King of Boys” explores the ways in which colour manipulates filmic language. The device becomes such an instigator of narrative and atmospheric resonance that in this almost violent world with macabre undertones and hyper repulsive conditions, the viewer is strangely seduced by the device’s red filter and compelled to watch.

About Makoko

Makoko is a self sufficient water community in Lagos, Nigeria. Settlers from nearby countries such as Togo and Benin Republic arrived by boat over 200 years ago and made their home on the Lagos State Lagoon.