THE LEGEND OF THE VAGABOND QUEEN OF LAGOS

 
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The Legend of the Vagabond Queen of Lagos is a social impact film that tells the story of a young mother from a waterfront slum in Lagos who stumbles upon a horde of corrupt blood-money earmarked for a luxury condo development to be built where her community stands, and a journey that takes her from isolated individualism to a being a unifying force in a community that stands to lose everything.

The film will show that violent forced evictions — often driven by land grab and private interest that coopt government machinery — remain a devastating reality for Lagos’s urban poor communities, and will carry a message of resilience for slum communities facing the threat of forced eviction: pli pli toleton, mije kpo godo tolanayo (unity is our strength).

The Context

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30,000 DISPLACED

The community of Otodo Gbame was forcibly evicted from their homes in a series of attacks by police and armed thugs that took place between November 2016 and April 2017. In the final eviction, those still holding on were forced to flee by boat into the lagoon. From there, they scattered across Lagos — refugees in their own city.

Nine people are believed to have drowned trying to escape, and two people were shot — one died. An additional 15 people are still unaccounted for, and 30,000 more remain displaced.

This film is a work of resistance — made in memory of lives lost and fractured in the eviction of Otodo Gbame — and will be a mobilization tool in the struggle for justice and the inclusive development of the largest city in Africa.

Our story is set against the backdrop of the ongoing forced eviction threat in Lagos, Nigeria — a struggle for the heart and soul of this megacity. Rich and powerful dynasties plan to turn Lagos into “the next Dubai,” a vision with no space for the urban poor. Although this is a work of fiction many of the scenes described are based on true events that happened over the course of the violent forced eviction of over 30,000 from the Egun fishing community of Otodo Gbame between November 2016 and April 2017.

The Legend of the Vagabond Queen is not a stand-alone film. It is part of an ongoing, multi-pronged campaign by Slum Dwellers International (SDI) and its affiliates, including the Nigerian Slum / Informal Settlement Federation and Justice & Empowerment Initiatives in Nigeria, to end forced evictions of the urban poor and build inclusive and resilient cities through partnership with organized urban poor communities. The film builds on over four decades of experience co-creating eviction alternatives by SDI-affiliated slum dweller federations across 36 countries.

The Approach

 
 

LVQ is a collaboration between a team of of young storytellers from the Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation and a group of film professionals, and intends to actualize a radically co-creative production model where members of the communities in which the story is based are integrally involved in every aspect of the film’s production.

The project was launched in 2017 through a story-development grant from the Sundance Institute’s “Stories for Change” Fund, and accelerated in 2018 through an innovative character-development approach which involved cataloguing scores of interviews with real community members, and folding their personalities and stories into the characters of our film (see video above).

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By bringing community voices into core creative and production roles, the project reframes the traditional approach to bringing marginalized stories into film, allowing for the story to achieve a unique level of realism in its sequences and imagery while creating lasting capacity within these communities to produce social impact media beyond this project.

While the film, by its nature, will center around stories of a group of individuals from one of Lagos’s hundreds of slum communities, it will carry the voices of Lagos’s millions living in informal settlements across the city who struggle to be heard in a city of 23 million — the leaders of which would want to see their communities erased.

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The film’s story is a mosaic of the environment from which it emerges. The plot is shaped by the lived experiences of community members of Lagos’s informal settlements, and the central characters were constructed through building 72 interviews of community members into a cast of characters that reflect the faces and stories of Lagos’s slum communities.

The Impact

The Legend of the Vagabond Queen of Lagos will aim to create impact in three distinct areas.

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  1. By screening the film to a global audience, including opinion leaders and policymakers, the film will put forced evictions, security of tenure, and housing rights of the urban poor back at the center of the global discourse on urban development and resilient cities, and enhance accountability frameworks for international actors contributing towards displacement.

  2. By tackling local misperceptions about urban poor communities, educating the general population about the violent nature of forced evictions, and linking the film to the story of Otodo Gbame, the film will build broad-based support for national legislation prohibiting forced evictions, and for #Justice4OtodoGbame.

  3. By presenting unity, community savings, and collective decision-making as the necessary foundation to resist land grab and forced evictions, and by countering perceptions of powerlessness vis-a-vis government and wealthy private actors, this film will build larger, strong, more organized, and more strategic slum dweller federations equipped to tackle the justice and development challenges facing the urban poor.

The Team

The Legend of the Vagabond Queen is a co-collaboration between Justice & Empowerment Initiatives, the Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation, and Slum Dwellers International, with support from the following partners:





For more information on this film, and to learn how you can get involved, contact info@justempower.org