by Atim Annette Oton
Nigeria’s diaspora generation according to Lagosians are arriving back in droves with western standards of living, accents to match and requiring special attention to detail. And where they stay along, with select tourist including most business people from across Africa, is a hidden jewel in the heart of Lagos- in an area called South West Ikoyi- is a place called Bogobiri.
This jewel of a place is as unusual, fresh and original. The individually designed decor of each of the rooms is unforgettable, but make sure to try a room with a unique African flavoured bathroom and a jacuzzi. Bogobiri House has 10 rooms and a design concept that combines the practical requirements of the modern traveler with Afrocentric creativity and charm. With Afrocentric inspired décor, Lagos’s first boutique hotel opened in 2003 with a spa room, jacuzzi and massage/treatments available, in the middle of bustling Lagos. Who knew?
I happened upon this place in the same way my friend Billie (Bilkisu, to be correct), a schoolmate from Africa, stumbled into my store in Brooklyn last year. A wonderful stumble indeed. When I returned to Lagos in February, I called her and we decided to meet up, hang out and catch up at Quintessence, another wonderful place — a store — and a must for the Lagos visitor. She mentioned Bogobiri, and wondered if I had been there. When I confessed my ignorance, she suggested that we go see it. What a delight. Well worth the diversion on a hot muggy Lagos afternoon of browsing stores in Ikoyi.
According to Chike Nwagbogu, one of the owners of Bogobiri, the name is that of a small settlement in Sokoto, as well as of an infamous street in Port Harcourt. I know it as well, as the name of an area in Calabar, where I grew up. Nwagbogu smiles and adds, “Rumour has it that there is a famous art trader at Lekki market bares the same name.” But for him, the sound of the name is every bit as important as the meaning. “The rhythmic nature of the name and its inherent universal appeal,” he said, captured the fun and spirit that he and his partner wished to project.
What makes Bogobiri special? For me, it is a haunting reminder of the pieces of furniture I used to live with and around while growing up in Calabar. A reminder of the intricate carved wood pieces that are the essence of Nigerian craftmanship at its best. Chock-full of artwork that showcases the talents of Nigerian artists, it is a reminder of the talents of Lagos, Nigeria and Africa as a whole. Bogobiri is a place you want to come back to . . . perhaps just for its weekly entertainment, but also certainly to see and be seen in one of the most creative spaces in the city, and spot that makes it easy to escape the bustle of a hot, hectic day in Lagos.
As unusual as it sounds, try popping your head into any of the bedrooms (be certain, of course, that it’s unoccupied at the time! A casual walk-through when the chambermaids are changing sheets might be the opportune moment.) What an experience; each is not only distinct, but remarkable in its simplicity. Afrocentric decor is at its best here — and more important, the use of traditional crafts and artwork, much of it locally produced, accentuates the spaces.
The bedrooms may each speak their own tribal language, but most of the bathrooms shout a return to nature and the land. Who knew stones and pebbles could accent a wall? The artist who was commissioned, and the owners, all seem to have had a hunch that those would make the space sing, and they were right. Before you leave, lounge in the stone-facade jacuzzi and let your mind dream of Africa. Yes, this is the Nigeria that you rarely hear about.
Bogobiri House is located at 9 Maitama Sule, South West Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria. They can be reached by phone: +234 (0) 23 414 747 421. Visit their website at http://www.Bogobirilagos.com
Amenities: 24hr reception, airport transport, business centre, children welcome, cocktail bar, currency exchange, disabled access, gift/curio shop, Gym / fitness centre, hairdressing salon, laundry/valet/dry cleaning, library, meals provided, newspapers, parking, pets allowed, residents lounge, restaurant, satellite/cable TV, secretarial services, smoking allowed, spa/hydro.
Rooms have: air conditioning, coffee/tea, hair dryer, Internet access, ounge en suite, minibar / fridge, room service, satellite/cable TV.
Rates: US$115 – US$200 (per person bed & breakfast). No cards accepted.