I didn’t know slum tourism existed till my father asked me to research on it.
This is actually a real thing and we have movies like Slum dog Millionaire for making it more famous.
Slum tourism is basically visiting slums for tourist purposes. Seeing how the people live there and sometimes, the architecture there is regarded as different or interesting.
Usually, people visit these places out of curiosity, but it has also helped to raise awareness on the plight of the people who live in these places. For obvious reasons, the living conditions are terrible!!!! But they make the best out of it.
Slum tourism originally started in London and Manhattan, but is now becoming a ‘thing’ in developing countries such as India, Brazil, Kenya, Indonesia, South Africa etc.
Of course there have debates over how ethical slum tourism is. While some say these people who get photographed lose a piece of their dignity every time people come and see them and also turns poverty to entertainment, others argue that it is an avenue to help local craftsmen sell souvenirs and other local items the tourists may find interesting.
Some examples of sites known for slum tourism include (they are named after the type of places visited):
1. Township tourism – Post Apartheid South Africa & Namibia
2. Favela tourism – Brazil
Favela – Brazil
3. Jakarta Hidden Tours – Jakarta, Indonesia
Jakarta – Indonesia
And we have our very own Makoko in Lagos state.
Makoko which is ironically called the Venice of Africa is basically a floating slum. It is home to over 250, 000 people. Because it is surrounded by water, it is a fishing community, although the waters are filled with dirt and and oil. Lack of proper drainage is to blame for this.
The people who live here are basically left to their own devices and therefore practically govern themselves. Most of the structures here are held up by stilts because of the Lagoon and everything else is done on boats.
Their lives revolve around the lagoon. The people live, work and shop on boats. Infact they are most probably famous for their floating school. (I keep saying you have to love Nigerians. They do what they have to do to survive). It’s a common statement that children who grow up there learn to swim first before they can walk.
Although they are surrounded by water, getting clean water is ironically a difficult task. The government apparently tried to demolish the place a while ago, and this lead to a lot of chaos and people being homeless. Some now sleep in their boats, or squat with others. While the Lagos state government may have good intentions for demolishing Makoko, surely some sort of provision should be made for those that will be displaced.
If you decide to go to Makoko, I would advice you don’t go on your own, And if you’re going to take pictures you should be careful, as they may think you were sent by the government.
I remember watching a BBC documentary 3 years ago called ‘Welcome to Lagos‘ and Makoko was featured. They spoke to various people and you can see how they make do with what they have.
Whether slum tourism is ethical or not is up to different opinions, but it does help to highlight the struggles that some people in our society are going through, and how they make do with what they get.