The walls in Computer Village are murals celebrating consumption. Facades are painted a single color: aqua blue, turquoise green, bright red, then punctuated with branding: TECNO, Wiko, bontel, GIONEE. Nestled in front of the building, rainbows of umbrellas continue the conversation: infinix, NOKIA, SAMSUNG, HUAWEI. Vendors sell anything and everything related to technology: sparkly phone covers, chargers, monitors, spare screens, used and new phones. Shops range from portable boards and boxes to cramped storefronts and boutiques inside the layered shopping complexes.
The streets are home to a constant stream of people, everyone walking through the market clutching their phones, here for some business. Along the edges agents try to steer would be customers to their shops: “What do you want? IPhone? Samsung? Come this way…” They shout above the din of dozens of generators; each shop has their own power supply, and they sprawl from the buildings into the street, quaking and smoking.
The place is about the materiality of a virtual world. Here a phone is an object, before it is a means of communication. Already 94% of Nigerians have access to a mobile phone, and in 2016 alone there were 15.5 million new smartphone users. Computer Village is one of the main distribution hubs for Lagos. It is a blur of transactions.
There are innovative phone engineers here who crack open memory boards to replace tiny microchips with parts salvaged from other broken phones. “They don’t repair this in Europe,” Adeola Kayode, one engineer explained, “they just replace the whole board. But we fix it here.” When finally phones are beyond repair, they are sold to recyclers.
Back behind the market, the same goods are for sale, but inside out, exposed like shiny, metallic intestines. Here the brands are invisible, and the computer as object is barely recognizable. People like Tijjani, an e-waste vendor from Kano, and his workers sort, weigh and resell electronic parts to customers, often from China, who melt them down to separate raw materials and start the production process again.
At Tijjani’s shop the ground is littered with broken screens and computer keys. In his back room massive sacks are stuffed with memory boards and hard drives. Porters enter with old monitors balanced on their heads; sorters lounge on piles of broken mechanical bodies. There is no marketing here, but this too is part of the insatiable appetite for technology. This photo series follows Tijjani’s typical transaction chain, exposing the market behind the market at Computer Village.