Anthony Bourdain Sees the Many Sides of Lagos in the Latest 'Parts Unknown' Preview
For the third episode of Parts Unknown's latest season, Anthony Bourdain heads to Lagos, Nigeria and finds a thriving, DIY spirit that drives Africa's largest city forward. But after a quick overview of the self-made ethos that animates the city's bustling markets, Bourdain begins by visiting a more expensive part of the city.
Soundtracked by pulsing afrobeat drums, the host heads to Quilox, one of Lagos' most exclusive nightclubs, located on increasingly affluent Victoria Island, where, he says, "the winners work and play." The slow motion, vividly lit shots underscore how money from Nigerian oil, agriculture, and services like banking, has made Lagos home to many of Africa's richest people, including thousands of millionaires.
The slick club is followed by a very different kind of neighborhood below the towers: Makoko, a self-sufficient shanty town floating on the water, with canal streets not unlike Venice. The Parts Unknown host gets shown around by boat, past the barbershops, restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, hospitals, and schools all run by the people, who are currently fighting government efforts to demolish it.
With pounded yam "the ubiquitious starch of Nigerian cuisine," Parts Unknown showcases plenty of the pounding process, which can take quite a few people at once to accomplish. Bourdain enjoys the fruits, er, vegetables of that labor with some Egusi soup (a stew of goat meat, melon seeds, fish stock, and chiles) with journalist Tunji Andrews who breaks down how organized groups of "area boys" run a sort of policing and protection racket amidst the city's corruption.
The conflict between the failures of the corrupt government, only a few decades removed from military dictatorship, and the DIY spirit Bourdain finds in places like Lagos' Computer Village—a massive neighborhood of electronics markets said to be worth 2 billion dollars, where people take apart and repair your electronics before your eyes amidst fierce competition from neighbors—seems central to Lagos life. But how to interpret it all is up for debate.
Sitting down with Femi, Seun, and Yeni Kuti, children of legendary Nigerian musician and activist Fela Kuti, Bourdain asks about the hopeful attitude he sees in Lagos compared to places with similar levels of inequality and poverty. But Seun Kuti turns it around, saying that it's part of "playing the game," with many elitists using ostentatious successes at the top to overlook how the vast majority of people live in poverty.
Clearly, unpacking the complexities of Nigerian culture and society will take longer than a half-hour of TV, but Parts Unknown is certainly off to a good start. The Lagos episode of Parts Unknown premieres October 15 at 9 p.m. on CNN, and the food looks very, very good.