Let me tell you a short story about my experience at Eleko Beach.
I stood on the top floor of an open beach house and gazed upon the beauty that sprawled before me. The beach house, built from bamboo and sewn wood and roofed with dried palm fronds, creaked underneath my weight; it seemed I had booked the oldest beach house at Eleko Beach. There were missing rungs on the ladder-like staircase as well as missing bamboo balusters supporting the top railings. “Anyways, it’s a good justification for its relatively cheap price,” I tried consoling myself earlier. Why would I bother? Beside me sat a big wrap of steaming hot Súyà, neighbored by cans of cold soft drinks. I was simply enjoying the life, atop a precariously standing bamboo beach house! I was lost in amazement, captured by the charm of the swelling blue sea, caressed by the sweeping cool breeze, and staring blankly at the sandy beach dotted by tourists who were tanning in the sweet Saturday noon sun. A set of fishing canoes rested near the sea shore, where the raging bulge of blue waters crashed the soft sands and formed foams and salt-soaked mud.
“Oga check painting o! Oga see fine painting o! … For your sitting room and bedroom. Oga see naa!” The words startled me and yanked me out of my dreamy state. I turned towards the caller just beneath the beach house but couldn’t make out his face only the set of multihued and intriguing mixed-media oil paintings which he carried. I immediately got lost in another round of day dream. “Oga come and buy naa,” he called out again. He knew he had caught my attention and was going to maximize the opportunity. The dark tone of his skin marked a perfect background for the art works he held; his face would never be a distraction to potential customers. I looked at him, he smiled and raised the paintings higher for me to see.
“I get more o, if you wan see,” he said, raising his right shoulder repeatedly. He had another stack of paintings hung on the shoulder. I sighed, “Okay then, show me make I see,”.Enthusiastically, he placed the two paintings he held initially on the plush beach sands and lifted the stack off his shoulder, unbound it and began to spread the remaining paintings on the sand in a rough oval shape. My eyes twinkled like the flame of a freshly-lit candle as I marveled at what lay beneath me. I descended the beach house to take a better look at the paintings, which looked beautiful upon inspection. Though the paintings were ridiculously cheaper than those ones I had seen at art exhibitions and galleries all over the country, we bargained and haggled prices. He explained how he had come all the way from Ile-Ife town in Osun State, down to Eleko Beach in Lagos to sell paintings. I asked why he didn’t go to places like Kuramo Beach, Oniru Beach or even Alfa Beach which are closer to the bustling Victoria Island city centre and received more tourists. He then explained he noticed that passionate nature-loving Lagosians prefer to unwind at locations that are a little far-flung from the bustles of the city while providing similar basic amenities tourists need for recreation as they would get from those locations within the city itself.
“A beach like Eleko fits perfectly into that bracket,” he said. However, he later opened up and stated that his major reason for running away from those other crowded beaches was less competition. At a place like Eleko it would be easier for him to dominate the market before the voracious eyes of other art-sellers discover the potential market looming here. As I counted some naira notes to pay for the two paintings I picked, a human shadow sped towards our direction like a bee racing towards its honeycomb. I paused and looked up. The setting sun had cast the approaching Hausa man into a silhouette with his flowing sky-blue Agbada and white traditional cap. He had bundles of beaded necklaces strung on one arm and lumps of uncountable beaded chains of various sizes, colours and length hanging from a pole on his other arm. He had spotted me from afar while haggling with the painter and counting cash and thought he could convince me to buy his beads. I admired his bead works but could not buy any of them. I laughed and thought, “if I no quick run comot here, these people go collect all the money wey dey my pocket today o!”Istruggled to appease my already allured heart and guilt-laden conscience and let the bead seller go his way. A few moments later another art peddler came again, displaying some small but dexterously carved crafts of painted wood. He smiled and asked if I wanted. I shook my head sadly.
The beach is indeed a must see for sight-seeing and recreation and one of the coolest places to sell or buy art works. The space is unlimited, the air is fresh and its ambience is juiced with the beautiful sun, enchanting waters and fascinating poise of dancing palm trees. Perfect place to inspire any art lover and hard to resist the pull of art peddlers passing by. Haggle the prices well, but don’t leave the beach without buying those crafts. You’ll never regret you did, because anytime you set your eyes on those souvenirs, you’ll always be reminded of the day you had an encounter with nature and its enchanting sun, sea and sand of the West African beach.