If peace, love, and serenity are not three words that spring to mind when you think of Nigerian police officers, don’t worry you’re not alone.
Nigerian law enforcement officials are sadly more known for bribery, oversabi and honestly, just bringing more pain than actual relief. Of course, there are some police officers out there that are probably great at their jobs, kind, helpful, and fair – I just sadly haven’t met any of these mythical people during my many years living in Lagos.
But imagine a picture-perfect world where our police officers were actually peaceful! And as a bonus, they even enjoyed a bit of yoga – although with their pot bellies, not really sure how they would touch their toes. But it’s all good, Lagos-based photographer, Medina Dugger, created this picture-perfect world that forces us to reconsider the stereotypes we have of Nigerian police officers and go into our interactions with them with a peaceful and open mind.
“When I first moved to Lagos, I was super intimidated by the police here (who undoubtedly have a difficult and underpaid job), especially the night-time check points (I drove myself) where one might be met with the question “what do you have for me”, expecting either a dash of cash or, for those who know better, a friendly-witty response to the officer after which the driver is laughingly waved on. If the officer decides, he might choose to search your car for no apparent reason. I wasn't accustom to such frequent exchanges with officers.”
“It was my own defensiveness when confronted by the police here which inspired me to redesign my response and reimagine the officers — to unveil their humanity through peaceful poses instead of seeing them as aggressors. I've had my share of confrontation here with police (despite being law-abiding) however I’ve learned how to approach these exchanges now with mindfulness and patience which inevitably illicits a like-response from the officer.”
The photos shot on the roof of City Hall in Lagos Island, feature Lagos based yoga instructor, Stacey Okparavero, as the psuedo police officer.
Titled, Zen Police, the photo series was inspired by toy soldier figurines positioned in various yoga poses that Medina found at a concept store:
"The soldiers, which are typically positioned in combative poses, embodied both war and peace so simply, but also seemed to be a contradiction. This evoked a strong response in me, first a humorous one, but afterward more contemplative, and led me to think about power structures in general and how harmony and balance are commonly forsaken by those in positions of great power."
Following the Zen Police series and following the increased instances (and history) of police brutality against African Americans in the U.S., Medina has also photographed a performance piece featuring a U.S. police officer and an African-American man engaging in harmonious couples yoga together.
Originally from California, Medina Dugger works as a photographer and independent curator. She’s exhibited the 2016 edition of Bozar Expo, Brussels, Belgium and LagosPhoto 2012. She was nominated as a finalist for the 2016 Prix Pictet photography prize. Her work has been published in magazines including Ours, Guernica, Allure and Art Base Africa. Check out more of her brilliant work on her website and Instagram page.
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