Monday, February 8, 2016 8:21 am
By TY Bello
“Olajumoke a bread hawker from the Sabo market bakery, walked entirely by coincidence unto our set of our Thisday style shoot for @tiniegram The moment didn’t look special at all. If anything she stood there a little confused .. Some people asking her to leave the set and others asking her to stay . I signaled if it was OK to take her photograph and she agreed and I pressed on my shutter so she could move ahead . My main subject of interest was the Okada driver that had slowed down just before she arrived. Okada riders have that cool Lagos vibe and always happen to add a bit of swag to street portraits.
I was wrong to have paid her such little attention. Every frame with her in it was perfect .. I had found a second subject in the Tinnie’s story .. A young beautiful hawker who could have served as a love interest of some sort. Digitally I made the red in her dress match @tiniegram sleeves to create a connection between them .
When the magazine came out last week and the images hit social media , I was proven right this girl split the limelight with the main subject effortlessly… questions and comments started to fly: Was she a model? How did we convince the model to balance all that bread on her head.
The buzz about her multiplied when I clarified that she indeed wasn’t a model at all but simply stumbled on our set. I immediately began my search for her. If so many felt she was beautiful enough to be a model.. Then maybe she was meant to be one. I was going to find a way to make it happen. I had assistants leave word with people in the area we shot her and to my delight the very next day, she showed up at my studio.
“Aso kan na ni mo wo kiri Lana…” Jumoke the ‘model’ the Internet had been searching for speaks almost no English. She explained how she had worn the exact outfit in our photograph the day before and someone showed her her own photograph on his phone from face book. A Mallam led her to my studio that morning.
She narrated her journey to Lagos… A hair stylist from Ire in Osun state but not making enough profit between she and her husband, a sliding door installer in from same village, to care for their two young children.
At the invitation of a distant relative who knew someone operating a bakery, she relocated to Lagos with her 14 month old daughter to give bread hawking a try, leaving her husband and older five- year old child behind .
As I listened to her, I wandered if the beauty I had seen on my screen as I edited my image was a fluke… well, until she smiled… I realized that I was wrong… I had in fact under-estimated the beauty of this 27 year old woman. As always, it was her eyes and of course her perfectly chiseled features that jumped out at you when she chuckled. This lady belonged in front of my camera. After a conversation with her husband telling him the story of our meeting, I decided I was going to photograph her that very afternoon… Within an hour, Bimpe Onakoya, one of Nigeria’s leading makeup artists and Zubby, one of my favourite hairstylists were at my studio to work magic. They had both followed the story online and were more than happy to put in their very best for her.
Olajumoke, with curly extensions out ,revealed a short natural Afro that beautifully hugged her face @Bimpeonakoya also had decided to keep the make up minimal… She stepped in front of my camera and I almost couldn’t recognize her. She moved different too. Jumoke looked straight into my lens emoting like she had done this all her life…. I knew we had found a star.”
During the course of the day, @emaedosio who was making a short documentary about the process had asked her what she really wanted to do .
‘Ka ma kiri Buredi ko suwon ‘ she explained that bread hawking wasn’t the most profitable business but put enough food on her table . It also put a roof over her head .. Howbeit a roof she shared with scores of other hawkers .
She was a trained hairdresser back in Osun state but her family could not afford the necessary ‘freedom ‘ ceremony ; a passing out ritual that gives a trainee a sometimes unwritten permission to start a full fledged salon .
We all decided that the makeover would be incomplete if it ended at the studio . Every one started to reach out to their contacts and through Bimpe we were able to get her a meeting with Ugo the pioneer of Make-me salon .
As a result of the buzz she generated from the Thisday cover Our model is now close to starting an internship at @makemesalon and has been offered a additional internship with @sarisignature a famous Lebanese owned salon on the island island .
To pay Jumoke her model fee from her first job in front of the camera we called @_ujumarshall one of Nigeria’s And matched her fees .She’s been offered a modelling contract with the help of @godsonukaegbu from a @fewmodels .She’s also had @payporte reach out to her to be model on their next billboard campaign .
This is clearly only the beginning of another chapter in Jumoke’s story . Though it seems accidental it s clearly Divine .
Just this morning, a mentor of mine offered to foot the bill for her accommodation ,education as well as her child’s .. This finally makes it possible to be reunited with her husband and older child .
I’ve asked myself over and again why all of this is happening . One thing is clear .. This woman here is no charity case .. We met her in the middle of her hustle … The woman works hard.. Seven days a week .. With a family to support .. But with dignity ..who pays that much attention to how she looks as she’s about to hawk bread … ?Arranging the bread so delicately like it was worth much more .. Making sure she left the bakery while it was steamy and hot … Every body likes their bread hot . .. All of this even when it’s clear that her profit in a day is between N300-500 .
This is the story of so many Nigerians .. The young housewife selling gala in traffic… The woman braiding hair under the bridge .. Nigerians work hard and we go it with style …
This has taught us and I hope everyone reading to pay a little attention ., to those clearly working hard around us .. You may have your own wahala to deal with .. But nothing gives you a bigger break from your troubles than just making life easier for someone else .. Give an orange seller a N1000 note and she may be able to take the next day off to attend to herself and her children .
Jumoke is sorted … I personally believe so with all the doors opening up for her but This story is more about the ‘jumokes’around you . Who put in all the work but just need a little push .You may not be able to help every one but as I learnt from someone I really respect … In your own unique way …. Do for the ONE what you would have liked to do for ALL.
Jumoke ooo.. Wants to be a hairstylists but secretly nurses a fantasy to act in a Yoruba film one day .. I know she’ll be a nollywood hit .. She did great in front of my camera and understood how to work the tiniest emotional nuances .She may not speak much English but can read and write in Yoruba .
*TY Bello is a photographer and musician who ‘is addicted to love’. You can reach her at: @tybellotweets