“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. Onikan will be the catalyst for a vibrant and tourist friendly quarter in the heart of Lagos Island.”

Babajide Sanwoolu, Governor of Lagos State

©The National Archives UK

about the centre

The History of the John Randle Centre

Dr John  Randle, a prominent Lagosian, built a public swimming pool in 1928 in King George V Park, later to become the Love Garden – a much loved recreational area. This grand gesture was inspired by the refusal of the British Colonial office to build a pool for Lagosians to learn how to swim. On completion of the pool and garden, Dr Randle handed over the facilities to the Lagos Town Council with a maintenance purse to ensure its upkeep. 

 

Chief John Koshoni Randle, an avid sportsman, prominent Lagosian and the son of Dr Randle passed away leading a sports delegation on an international games event. A group of his friends, including Dr Mose Majekodunmi, Chief Akerele, Alhaji Chief IS Adewale, Mr John Stewart, and Chief Kweku Banwo set up a trust to build a hall in memory of Chief Randle. A piece of land in Onikan was donated by the Federal Government of Nigeria on the direction of Hon. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and executed by Hon. Musa Yar Adua, the Minister of Lagos Affairs. 


The memorial hall, under the care of a new set of trustees in Chief (Arc) Femi Majekodunmi, Chief Femi Adeniyi Williams, and Bashorun JK Randle, was extensively used as a performance venue for cultural plays by renowned artists such as Prof. JP Clark, and artists in residence. The refurbishment of the swimming pool and erection of a new centre to replace the demolished memorial hall will hopefully return this much loved and missed recreational area in the heart of Lagos Island.


©The National Archives UK

architectural brief

BRIEF

Designed by SI.SA Architects, the John Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture and History forms part of an urban regeneration project at the heart of Lagos Island, a part of the city steeped in rich history. The project seeks to restore a public swimming pool built in 1928 with updated facilities, and to create a centrepiece community building with a 1,000 square-metre exhibition gallery that tells the story of Yoruba history and culture through a journey from its origins, through present day, to the future. Both interventions are situated in a landscaped park, an homage to the 18th-century King George V Park, which was built over in the last century. 


The architecture of the Centre takes it cues from traditional Yoruba architecture and craftsmanship, using visual metaphors to reflect the strong art and philosophical origins of the language and culture. The building form responds to its context in the shape of a fractal, rises from the earth and leans forward as a nod to Itesiwaju, reflecting the progressive nature of the Yorubas. The buildings are finished in a dyed Tyrolean, evocative of the mud aesthetic of old Yoruba architecture. A metallic screen across the face of the curved façade represents a weave, a time-honoured skill found in everyday Yoruba life. A green roof ties the building to the landscape, helps to reduce the building's thermal load and provides additional interactive outdoor space.


The Centre, pool and landscape will act as a catalyst for regeneration of the area and a nostalgic return of public recreation space to the heart of Lagos Island. The John Randle Centre will aim to engage the public with the richness of Yoruba culture and history; its impact through art, music, religion, language; its reach around the world through popular culture; and its significance in leaving a legacy for future generations.

“The British Museum has supported the development of the John Randle Centre for Yoruba History and Culture since its inception and is keenly anticipating the launch of this spectacular building at the heart of Lagos Island in 2021. This exciting cultural initiative will provide a vibrant new space to explore and celebrate Yoruba heritage, past and present, and will create further opportunities for positive dialogue and collaboration between Nigeria and the UK.”

Hartwig Fischer, Director, The British Museum

©Ajibola Fasola / Shutterstock.com

CELEBRATING YORUBA HERITAGE

There is no single story of the Yoruba people. To understand the story of the Yoruba people is to understand the way Yoruba identity has been shaped by centuries of history, and dispersed far from Nigeria into all corners of the globe. It is to understand the multiple different dialects of the language, and the varying customs and ceremonies that all exist under the banner of ‘Yoruba’.


The John Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture and History will be an unparalleled experience in Lagos – a ground-breaking cultural attraction that will reveal to visitors the time-honoured story of Yoruba ethnicity – one of the most influential ethnicities in Nigeria. Yoruba experts and novices alike will be able to dive deep into the stories, myths and traditions of Yoruba heritage, encountering immersive experiences from the dynamism of Yoruba festivals to the rich visual culture of Yoruba history and ancestry.


The John Randle Centre will stand out as the first cultural centre of its kind in Lagos. As distinct from a museum, the Centre will provide a flexible, updateable space for learning programmes, art installations and live music events. Visitors will be thrilled, inspired and intrigued by the stories the Centre has to offer, regardless of their ethnicity.

©Ajibola Fasola / Shutterstock.com

THE PERMANENT EXHIBITION

Yoruba culture is a crucial part of Nigerian contemporary culture. As Nigeria modernizes at an incredible pace, it is important to teach younger generations about how Yoruba heritage continues to influence musicians, artists and creative innovators in the present day. The Permanent Exhibition will celebrate the language, rituals, festivals, deities and ancestry of the Yoruba people at this time, and will ensure that the legacy of Yoruba culture and history is kept alive in Lagos. 


The John Randle Centre will be a place of remembrance and reconnection for Yoruba and African people from Cuba, Brazil, Haiti, America and the Caribbean, as well as the rest of Nigeria, providing a vital injection of tourism to Lagos. 

“The John Randle Centre is an enduring monument to Yoruba civilization, immortalizing Yoruba cultural history's vast grandeur and influence. The Centre’s exhibits will catalogue profound Yoruba knowledge, spirituality, and existence, providing a hallowed place for all to experience the glamour, splendour, and mystique of an unimaginable global treasure.”

Professor Jacob Kehinde Olupona

©Valentine Ojiaku

mission

As the most populous city in Nigeria, Lagos is the perfect location to set the scene for a new cultural quarter, in which the John Randle Centre is a key offer. A city known for its deep connection to Yoruba heritage, Lagos now has a unique opportunity to celebrate its ties to Yoruba culture with the lasting legacy of a Yoruba Centre. 


The frenetic energy, commitment to community, and diversity of identity in Yoruba culture are traits equally embodied by the city of Lagos. The Centre will be a fitting symbol of the multiplicity of identities in the metropolis. 


Yoruba culture is a crucial part of Nigerian contemporary culture. As Nigeria modernizes at an incredible pace, it is important to teach younger generations about how Yoruba heritage continues to influence musicians, artists, and creative innovators in the present day. Celebrating the language, rituals, festivals, deities, and ancestry of the Yoruba people at this time will ensure that the legacy of Yoruba culture and history is kept alive in Lagos. 


The John Randle Centre will be a place of remembrance and reconnection for Yoruba and African people from Cuba, Brazil, Haiti, America and the Caribbean, as well as the rest of Nigeria, providing a vital injection of tourism to Lagos.

“Literally and idiomatically, the presentation and display of Yoruba works should benefit from their rich oral and philosophical traditions. A gallery devoted to the elucidation (and even the dramatization) of the Yoruba concepts of orí, àṣẹ, aso, osun and the "beginning" of the world using the oríkì paradigm. This is where mythology, archaeology and history meet and could set the stage for the understanding of Yoruba culture and history.
The guiding philosophy in the presentation of all works should be to attract and secure the interest of Yoruba culture bearers and not just the occasional non-Yoruba visitors/audience who expect to see a replica of the exhibitions they are accustomed to in Western museums.”

Professor Rowland Abiodun

Principle Content Advisors for the John Randle Centre

The John Randle Centre has been developed in consultation with an expert team drawn from around the world. The principal consultant is Rowland Abiodun, John C. Newton Professor of African Art at Amherst College, and formally senior lecturer at the University of Ife. His book Yoruba Art and Language: Seeking the African in African Art provides the basis upon which the John Randle Centre has been organized.  


Professor Jacob Olupona is Professor of African Religious Traditions at the Harvard Divinity School. He is an expert in Yoruba thought and philosophy.  


Henry John Drewal is Emeritus Professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has, for many years, been the leading American scholar of Yoruba art and culture, organizing multiple international exhibitions.  


Dr Will Rea was born in Ibadan and has spent many years working in Ekiti. He teaches at the School of Fine Art, History of Art, and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds in the UK. 


The curatorial team for the John Randle Centre includes Dr Will Rea (Co-ordinating Curator), Sir Martins Akanbiemu (Subject Curator, Custom and Practice), Nath Mayo Adediran (Subject Co-curator, Modern Yoruba), Iheanyi Onwuegbucha (Subject Co-curator, Modern Yoruba), Aderemi Adegbite (Subject Co-curator, Modern Yoruba) and Oyinda Fakeye (Subject Co-curator, Future Yoruba) and Contributing Curators Wale Lawal, Omoyemi Akerele and Tokunbo Akelere. The script for the permanent exhibition is being written and translated by Rotimi Fawole and Kola Tubosun.