John Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture & History: A global spotlight on Lagos

If you have visited Dubai Museum at Al Fahidi Fort, Museo de América in Madrid and Museo Nacional Del Prado, Madrid, you would be enthralled by the unique preservation of heritage of the people, indulging tales of their history and understanding of their way of life.

Well, the above and more are what John Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture & History, is set out to achieve.

From its architectural masterpiece, right location, many sections dotted with rich cultural contents and exhibits, amid world-class recreational facilities, the newly opened centre is a melting pot for culture and recreation in Lagos.

Set in Onikan, Lagos Island, John Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture & History is being unveiled to boost the cultural offerings in Onikan, which is regarded as the culture hotbed of Lagos, with the National Museum, Muson Centre, Lagos Island Club, Yoruba Club, Onikan Stadium, Tafawa Balewa Square, among many art galleries and live music stages, all located in its domain.

Of course, the centre emerged from the restoration of a public swimming pool built in 1928 by John Randle, a prominent Lagosian, in King George V Park, which was later known as the Love Garden.

It offers updated facilities, amid creating a centerpiece community building with a 1,000 square metre exhibiting gallery that tells the story of Yoruba history and culture.

The centre, an architectural wonder, with the shape of a fractal, rising from the earth, leaning forward and reflecting the progressive nature of the Yorubas, is also part of an urban regeneration project at the heart of Lagos Island.

The facilities include: an outdoor theatre, public square, space for learning programmes, art installations, live music events, a permanent exhibition, library, training and conference rooms, and a concession block for food, drinks, lounge, bleacher stand, lawn area and of course, world-class swimming pool.

However, moving further into the museum is an adventure on its own.

From the reception area, beautiful artworks that bear the creative signature of their makers welcome visitors, as well as the image of the Oba of Lagos, which is strategically placed opposite the entrance. Moving further up to the first floor opens a door to the Yoruba Nation; her culture, people, feats, beliefs among others, all creatively presented in art.

The works are presented in sections, with one showing Obatala, the Yoruba creation god. If you look carefully and listen attentively, you will understand the genealogy of the Yoruba race through the Orisha of Yoruba mythology.

But one section that will catch your attention for a long time, while in the museum is the masquerade section.

Prominent among Yoruba masquerade culture is the Eyo, which is presented in different versions in the section including; Adimu, Eyo Alaketepupo, Eyo Oniko, Eyo Olegede, and Eyo Agere.

For entertainment and music fans, the media section is where to go. As expected, the section parades successful Yoruba musicians, culture and art practitioners across many decades. Also, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, pioneer of Afrobeat music genre, human right activist and the masses’ president, is prominent in the section, with some of his works on display.

The museum also takes visitors back to pre-colonial and colonial eras, with rare pictures, artifacts, buildings among others that bear witness of the eras.

Read also: Family, friends remember J.K. Randle

In the section, colonial file cabinets and safes, gramophone, radio and telephone used by the colonial administrators are generously on display.

Also expected is the elaborate mention of Samuel Ajayi Crowther, the Yoruba linguist, clergyman, and the first African Anglican Bishop of West Africa, in the section.

Moreover, Yoruba fashion is also on display with weaving looms, traditional fabrics, royal ensembles and palaces, paintings, iconic photos, a court for moonlight tales, a folksy, 3D screen depicting the place of Yoruba art and culture in the future, among others.

Meanwhile, Lagos State government, the initiator and sponsor of the centre, is excited the project has translated from mere idea to reality.

According to Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos State, “The John Randle Centre is the first of many initiatives aimed at the preservation of the heritage of the Yoruba through the celebration and preservation of history and culture, the regeneration of decades old public green space, public recreation facilities, and the restoration of civic pride.”

Considering its location, the governor assured that Onikan would be the catalyst for a vibrant and tourist friendly quarter in the heart of Lagos Island from now on.

Speaking of the centre, Uzamat Akinbile-Yussuf, Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Art and Culture, said that the centre is part of an urban regeneration project at the heart of Lagos Island, which is expected to draw visitors from across the world to explore Yoruba culture and history.

Explaining Lagos State’s commitment to ensuring the centre lives up to people’s expectation, the commissioner said, “We made trips abroad to ensure that we build a world-class museum for the people of Lagos State, and we are proud of what we have achieved.

“We have gone to great lengths to make sure that this place is well equipped. Our purpose is to make our people appreciate Yoruba culture and history and the museum is open to the public.”

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