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Friday, 15 July 2011

"Face Me, I Face You is a form of Nigerian Architechture"? Guest blogger entry!

I have discovered yet another interesting article by MyPenandMyPaper(.wordpress.com), it shares an interesting commentary on the "Face Me, I Face You" phenomenon.. Read on..

"I don’t know who decided to update Wikipedia with information about Face Me, I Face you – related to accomodation in Nigeria, but what I really find disgusting about the statment is the line: Face Me, I Face you is a form of Nigerian architecture. I mean, Is Face Me I Face You an architecture? is Face Me I Face You part of architectural education in Nigeria? The statement makes Nigerian architects look stupid.

Wikipedia reads:

Face-me-I-face-you
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Face-me-I-face-you is a form of Nigerian architecture where a group of one bedroom flats have their entrances facing each other to form a compound with a main entrance leading into a square in the middle. Face-me-I-face-you’s are a very common architectural style in major urban settlements in Nigeria, most notably in the cities of Lagos, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Benin City and Ibadan; the flats are low rent and are used by the average Nigerian citizen because of their affordability.[1][2]…source: click here
Nigerian architects where are you? Is Face Me I Face You a Nigerian architectural idea?

My own definition would be: Face Me, I Face You is the name of a type of low-cost accomodation in Nigeria where rooms are built to physically face each other……..

For example: even in Yankee, a 3/4 bedroom house could be built in such a way where rooms could face each other, separated by a hallway, is this not Face Me, I Face You? and does that mean the idea is Nigerian?

GOSH.

This article from AllAfrica.com is more informative:
THEY are popularly called “Face me, I face you” houses. Others derogatorily refer to them as “face me and face trouble” or “face me and face wahala”. But, in professional circles, they are known as tenement buildings, multi-tenanted buildings or Brazilian houses. They adorn all nooks and crannies of Nigeria’s urban areas and offer residential accommodation to the greater majority of urban dwellers, particularly those living in the slum neighbour-hoods. Occupants of such accommodation share facilities such as kitchen, toilets and bathrooms. In fact, it is commonplace to find about ten people cramped in a less than 10×10 inches square metres room. Living in tenement buildings is like staying in a miniature hell and children raised in such environments are known to be more delinquent when compared with their counterparts brought up in more decent neighbourhoods.
Tenement buildings have been phased out in most advanced countries. In their place, studio flats in blocks of flats are now built to accommodate the less-privileged who cannot afford to live in flats, bungalows and duplexes. Only recently, a Lagos based private developer announced plans to build studio flats in highbrow Lekki Peninsula instead of the mainland and other less expensive parts of the metropolis. Built environment experts who spoke to Vanguard Features in separate interviews justified building studio flats in Lekki, even as they posited that tenement buildings should not be phased out because majority of the people who live in such houses cannot afford to pay for studio flats.
source: http://allafrica.com/stories/200707160401.html
So please, whoever updated that Wikipedia article should go get his/her facts right.

Is this not a Face Me, I Face You?

block-of-houses-thumb16052436

Back to Lagos Accomodation:

The house behind ours, where I live is a Face Me I Face You. It appears the only thing the inhabitants of that house know is how to fight with each other.

The stories are always very funny to me, but very serious to the tenants of the house, causing a lot of arguments, cursings, etc:
  • Its either the husbands of Mama-A and Mama-B are fighting each other and the wives are trying to sort things out;
  • or that a single lady tenant in the compound said that the husband of one of the other women in the house was making passes at her / tried to sleep with her. The wife rises to the defense of her husband and calls the single lady an ashawo;
  • or that two children of different families started a fight while playing and very soon, their individual set of parents join in the fight in a bid to defend their kids; the mommy of child-A takes on the mommy of child-B, same with the daddy’s;
  • or that someone shitted in the toilet and did not wash it properly. In a bid to know where the shit came from, they begin taking of history of who went to the toilet / who was seen going to the toilet. Now, how do you explain, “I went inside the toilet, but didn’t shit, or that I came out of the toilet but met the shit there when I went in?” Often, the person who came out of the toilet would say there wasn’t any shit there when he came out and the next person who went in would say he/she saw shit there. How do we know the truth about the matter?
  • or that the wife of one of the men was inside the bathroom and a child / another married somewhere was trying to take a peek at her naked body; or that the son of one of the tenants was trying to touch the private parts of the daughter of another of the tenants, where the
  • or that something was missing somewhere…..there is always an issue, something to fight about, something to bring all the tenants out of their rooms/set of rooms and make them take one side or the other.
At the end of the day, someone will go and call the Police who will come and arrest a couple of people – and then the matter will be settled.

The house behind ours is an ideal example of Nigeria. Over time, I have gathered that the tenants include someone from each part of the country: North, East, South / West. Some are Christians and some Muslims. The only thing common with them is they all try to speak Yoruba. While its nice to see them living together, sometimes, I detect (in the many arguements I hear) some form of bias based on tribal / religious affiliation in the tone of their voices / in the causes of arguement and even in the refusal to accept a peace-making activity. Its more like each person is at the other’s neck – just for the sake of tribe or religion. That is why I wonder, when is Nigeria going to be delivered from the demon of tribalism and religiousity.

Just in case you want to participate, answers are still pouring in to the question: what was the religion of our Nigerian fore-fathers? Maybe we could throw away all the Christianity, Islam / whatever and go back to where our fore-fathers left of.

Whenever anything happens in the house behind ours, I’m all ears, and listening. I never forget to say a prayer in my heart: Dear Lord, may I never live in a Face Me, I Face You. I won’t want to live each day of my life and argue with a neighbor over something old or new.

Do you live in a Face Me, I Face you? what are the challenges of life facing you there. Please share your story!"

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