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The real life locations of Water Baby – Chioma Okereke

  • Submitted: 10th April 2024

The real life locations of Water Baby – Chioma Okereke

A River Runs Through It

The real life locations of Water Baby – Chioma Okereke. WHAT a treat on The BookTrail today – we are off to Nigeria and a very special location there….

Map of locations in Water Baby

Water Baby Chioma Okereke

Map of locations in Water Baby

My world was already smaller before the pandemic struck. We’d already adapted to off grid living; restoring a house that was over two hundred years old in the French countryside, in a village with three hundred and fifty people. The house sat next to a river whose depths was mostly ankle grazing, whose colour mostly mimicked the mercurial sky it mirrored.

Chioma OkerekeConsidering we’d moved from London; we’d become hermits. But the change had been necessary, detaching from the hamsterwheel of the city vital. Aside from the fear of endless country roads, pastoral silence, and the power of my overactive imagination, I’d successfully leaned into the shift.

Map of locations in Water Baby

As lockdowns were put in place, we all surrendered to the new normal. For us that involved travel through the television and our preferred destination was food. So few things in life engage all five senses. Perhaps that’s why food is very high on my list of things that bring me joy; it is undoubtedly my love language. We binged cooking shows and honed our own skills in our kitchen. M learned to bake bread, brew kombucha, and became a master pickler. I refined trusted recipes and committed to writing my first blog — Things We Ate In The Lockdown — in equal parts to entertain ourselves, and because there was an expiration date on our isolation, or so we’d thought at the time.

Map of locations in Water Baby

It was almost inevitable when “The Algorithm” noticed our preferences and spoon fed us more curious food programming. One night, as I was nursing the wounds of a publisher rejection (another of my books had just gone out on submission to find a publishing home), I selected something on YouTube at random to accompany our dinner and that Best Ever Food Review Show was the catalyst for Water Baby.

Map of locations in Water Baby

As chef Sonny navigated the Lagos waterways in search of interesting food to present to his audience, I found myself captivated by the scrolling tapestry of his environment. The riot of colour against water blacker than moonlight, viscous as petrol. Mounds of refuse, like mini islands, between clusters of wooden and metal shacks dispatching charcoal rings into the city’s smog in the daily practice of smoking fish to be distributed throughout Lagos and its surroundings.

Map of locations in Water Baby

As I watched the show, I was stunned that I knew little about Makoko and ashamed that my curiosity for something in my own country hadn’t peaked before encountering this programme, in the way we often fail to explore things closer to home. As a writer, though, I make no apology for where, when, or how a character appears, which is what happened as I felt my attention shift off the screen as I drifted away into my thoughts.

I pictured a girl on the lagoon, her muscles lean but powerful from years of practised skill, guiding her canoe through choppy water. I saw other things too; her father and her little brother, her home fashioned from an assortment of materials, like a mixed media illustration or a complex puzzle. After I made a flippant comment about writing a book set there, M challenged me to do it and I accepted.

Map of locations in Water Baby

I already saw Baby clearly in my head but when I got to my computer keyboard to write, I thought ‘what now’? So began my deep dive on the internet as I threw myself into a discovery of the informal settlement; researching its history and learning about the waterways. I called my father, who reminded me of the painting on his wall. Of Makoko. I marvelled at the contrast of our settings — me in a building of stone on sand and Baby in her wooden hut on stilts — yet the water that connected us.

Soon, I realised that the ‘what now’ question repeating in my mind wasn’t mine but hers.

And with that, I had my starting point.


BookTrail Boarding Pass:Water Baby

witter:  @Chiomatic              Web: https://chiomaokereke.com/


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