It’s the last Saturday of the month (June), and as has been the practice for years, it is environmental sanitation day in Lagos. Human and vehicular movement is restricted until 10 am as Lagosians are expected to devote three hours (starting 7 am) of the morning to clean up their surroundings.
The day is warm, bright and beautiful, the perfect atmosphere for a morning out at the beach, which is what some residents on the Lagos Island did on Saturday 27 June, turning up for the first edition of the Lagos Colour Splash, designed to be a blend of running, jogging, walking, bicycling and strolling.
Participation is free and participants are only encouraged to come wearing white. “Of course you can wear whatever you please, but the best part is starting out all sparkly clean and ending looking like a big bag of skittles exploded on you,” according to the FAQ section of the event flier. “If you or your team are going to come in costume, we do recommend making them as white as possible to ensure that you get the most optimal colour coverage possible.”
Everybody assembles at the Bar Beach Waterfront as early as 6 am, and branded T-shirts are handed out to interested persons on request. After some exercising and aerobics with music in the background, the party sets out on the pre-determined 5.3 km route, connecting Akin Adesola Street, Adeola Odeku Street and Ahmadu Bello Way.
As they run, jog or walk, participants, mostly wearing white t-shirts, pass by several “colour stations”, where volunteers positioned along the route splash them with corn starch and food-grade dye in all the colours of the rainbow. “The colours that you will be showered in is completely safe and washes off easily,” reads one of many assurances in the flier. “If you don’t think you can beat your friends on speed, see if you can be the real winner by coming out of the race covered head to toe in camouflage.”
After many “waves” of runners and joggers departed the Bar Beach Waterfront, everyone is back at again the starting point—to rest, to refresh, to chat and to dance. It’s an uplifting gathering of the young and the old, all of them having fun.
“One of the things we know how to do in Lagos is to let our hairs down by partying,” goes the intro of a piece on the event, published in the March 2015 edition of In The City Lagos, a free monthly magazine and one of the organisers. The feature goes on to describe the event as a “lifestyle event like no other, [and]an opportunity to mingle and network”.
Besides the fun, keeping fit is the other part of the bargain for the hundreds of participants. In the City Lagos writes: “The Lagos Colour Splash will help you get off your couch and away from those plantain chips and groundnut, work towards your lofty personal fitness goals, give you something super cool to do with your friends and family”.
I get a moment to chat with Kaycee Kennedy, CEO of Virtual Xchange Group and one of the brains behind the gathering. I first ask him what inspired The Splash. “We just wanted to have a clean family day out without alcohol,” he says on the spot where we are both standing, a few feet from the DJ’s platform. “You can imagine that on a day like this, Lagosians will either be at home watching television or getting stuck in traffic. We just wanted to do something away from the routine, something to take away the stress.”
And how often will it be held? “We conceive The Lagos Colour Splash as an annual event,” Kennedy says, his gaze fixed on the barbed fence and surge-breakers that separate the Bar Beach Waterfront from the paved road. “But if we get feedback people that suggest we should have it quarterly or twice a year, we will likely do so. It is quite possible that we might do it again around the Christmas season.”
Whether it happens once or twice in a year, the Lagos Colour Splash is the coolest of the cool tourist-friendly beachside shows I have seen hosted in Lagos. It is one that deserves to be on the state’s official calendar of tourism-based activities for tourists to the city.
As I make to leave, I see both male and female basketball players bounce their balls around, preparatory to the games that is about kick off. It’s just 2pm—I can imagine that there is still more fun ahead. By Pelu Awofeso (@PeluAwofeso)