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John Randle Centre: Lagos' New Museum Makes Yoruba Culture Come Alive


The John Randle Centre for Yoruba History and Culture | Ariel Shot
The John Randle Centre for Yoruba History and Culture | Ariel Shot

A prominent landmark in Lagos is getting a new lease on life, with a focus on celebrating the rich heritage of the Yoruba people. The John Randle Centre for Yoruba History and Culture, set to open this autumn, replaces a colonial-era swimming pool and memorial hall with a vibrant museum and community space.


This isn't your typical museum. Designed by Lagos-based architect Seun Oduwole, the centre throws out the Western model and embraces a distinctly Yoruba aesthetic. Earthy concrete walls mimic traditional mud structures, while gold latticework reflects the renowned Yoruba metalwork.


Inside, the experience explodes with color and sound. Visitors are greeted by an animated display of Yoruba creation myths, using the symbolic calabash gourd. Dedicated spaces showcase various deities, storytelling traditions, and everyday customs. Curator Will Rea, a Nigerian-born academic, emphasizes the centre's focus on "living memory" rather than a static display.


More Than a Museum

The John Randle Centre for Yoruba History and Culture | Installation Shot
The John Randle Centre for Yoruba History and Culture | Installation Shot

The Randle Centre is a multi-faceted hub. Alongside the 1,000-square-meter exhibition space, there are restaurants serving contemporary Yoruba cuisine, a library, a temporary exhibition gallery, and a gift shop.  A new swimming pool has been built, echoing the original one constructed by Dr. John Randle in the 1920s.


The centre aims to rectify the under-representation of Yoruba culture globally. Rea highlights its influence on everything from Afrobeat music to salsa dancing, and the growing interest among young Nigerians in their heritage. Talks are underway to receive objects on loan from the British Museum, including the Lander stool, a significant piece of Yoruba art.


Regeneration and Community


The Randle Centre is part of a larger effort to revitalize the Onikan area, traditionally Lagos' cultural heart.  The project restores a cherished public space and creates a new destination for locals and tourists alike.


The John Randle Centre is a bold statement. It's a celebration of Yoruba culture, a space for community engagement, and a model for future cultural initiatives in Lagos.


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John Randle Centre: Lagos' New Museum Makes Yoruba Culture Come Alive

May 25, 2024

Obidike Okafor

2 min read

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