In the 1960s, a young nurse from rural California decided to pack up, move to a newly independent Nigeria on a Christian mission and work with leprosy patients. She met a Nigerian preacher and married him, and they had kids. To an outsider looking at her life in photos decades later, it all seems pretty exceptional.
But to her son, designer Senongo Akpem, it was regular family life. “It’s always hard to describe your parents as exceptional,” he says. “To me she was just Mom.”
Growing up in Nigeria, Akpem had obviously heard stories from his parents about their early days. But it wasn’t until very recently that he could see them. His father found some old film slides, a family friend scanned them, and Akpem has been culling through them from New York, where he’s now based.
First, he’s focusing on his mother’s story and has posted a few mini-chapters of her life to his website, Lost Nigeria. It’s a poignant filmstrip of personal, daily life — but the photos also expose a chapter of Nigerian history you don’t often see.
Lost Nigeria:The Founds Photos Of A Nurse With Wanderlust
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Senongo Akpem