Dawanau Grain Market, Kano Nigeria.
In 2012 I went to Kano, Nigeria, where I spent time in the 1990s writing and researching a book. Instead of my notebook I took a camera, looking for something African and local and unsung to photograph. Since many of the husbands I knew would not allow me to photograph their wives, my previous research about marriage (Islamic and polygamous in Northern Nigeria) was no help. Also, I sympathized with the many Nigerians I talked to who complained about western journalists photographing only horror African stories and saintly NGOs. What I found, finally, was a huge working grain market just outside Kano – with enormous trucks coming in and out from all over Nigeria and as far away as Mali and Chad. Best of all, it seemed to be run well, its size increasing over the decades, providing lots of jobs. The white flour on black faces reminded me of those unforgettable coal-miner photos. I realize that those, too, could have been beautiful.