Makoko is one of the inner-city slums in Nigeria. Get in a canoe and move through the waterways to get to a destination in the town. You’ll notice churches, shops, vendors all on stilts.
Home to about 350,000 people, it started out as a fishing village. The ‘Venice of Africa’ sits on swampy land with little sanitation and services and a third of it is built on stilts in a lagoon off the Lagos mainland.
But pick a map to find where this unique settlement is and Makoko would be difficult to find, even in the smallest print. That’s because it is a near-blank space on the map.
Due to its non-existence on the map, the town is not officially recognised.
Therefore, the area is left completely vulnerable to neglect and exposed to exploitation.
Local children remain schoolless for the most part, there is a lack of emergency services and development of the area has been slow because very little is known about the geographical layout of the area.
More often than not as well, there have been attempts to forcibly evict residents because the waterside location is prime real estate.
All this however, is changing.
With the help of a non-profit organisation, Code for Africa, one young woman from Makoko, Abigail Mkpe, is trying to change the way her community is seen on the map.
A makeup artist by profession, the 23-year-old usually beautifies the faces of other women who need her services.
On other days, she’s a drone pilot trained to capture information in the form of films and take photographs from the sky about Makoko to translate into data for a map.
“The very first time I flew a drone it was like a dream come true.”
“Some people came here to make a film and they were using a drone to film. I would wonder how they were flying this thing.
I took interest in it so when the opportunity came to learn I went for it. Now I am mapping Makoko with a drone.”
The first place Abigail mapped was her family house.
“I really wanted to be on the Makoko map. Doing it was really amazing and fun. I’m proud to see my house on the map.”
Now equipped with makeup and drone skills, Abigail aims to combine both for use on a film set.
“Makeup and mapping are the same for me. If someone wants to shoot a film, they will need a drone and they will need a makeup artist and I can do both now.