John Randle lives on as the center deepens the cultural soul of Lagos
For For decades Onikan was one of the most important places that gave Lagos a cultural soul. Because when many people think of Lagos, they primarily think of commerce. They think of the population and of a social life that is often ahead of them in many places. But beyond its diversity and socio-economic opportunities, Lagos is an oasis of tourism and culture, characterized by its princely waters and numerous monuments.
In Onikan you will find the National Museum, MUSON Center, Island Club, Yoruba Tennis Club, City Mall and more, all located amidst other related centers and headquarters of many institutions. But Onikan’s enviable reputation as the seat of cultural Lagos has received a phenomenal boost with the opening of the John Randle Center for Yoruba Culture and History. A major asset symbolizing the Babajide Sanwo-Olu government’s commitment to the development of tourism, culture and entertainment was on Tuesday 24 the Blue Rail Line, the Imota Rice Mill and the Lekki Deep Seaport.
The architectural masterpiece dedicated to the renewal of Yoruba heritage is indeed the new sprawling building that redefines tourism and culture in the city and is magnificently located opposite the National Museum. Although Sanwo-Olu inherited the dream, he has transformed it beyond the original standards – proving that he believes in politics without bitterness and infrastructural continuity. He said he took a special interest in the center to restore its lost glory, noting that it was unsurpassed in documenting Yoruba history and culture. He installed a seven-member board of trustees for the center in July 2021, with himself as chairman.
Summing up the essence of the facility, the governor said: “The John Randle Center is the first of many initiatives aimed at preserving Yoruba heritage through celebration and preservation of history and culture, regeneration of decades-old public green spaces, public recreation facilities and the restoration of civic pride. Onikan will be the catalyst for a vibrant and tourist-friendly neighborhood in the heart of Lagos Island.
“Our administration places tourism development at the heart of our economic planning and I will personally serve as CEO to revitalize tourism and bring about a cultural renaissance in Lagos. The board consists of four government representatives and three experts from the private sector.
“Originally built in 1928, the John Randle Center used to serve as a center for cultural tourism, recreation and entertainment. At this point, let me say that I take this opportunity to serve with responsibility as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the JK Randle Center for Yoruba Culture and History, and I assure stakeholders in the arts, culture and tourism ecosystem that we will do everything possible to ensure that the center becomes a reference point, not only for Yoruba culture and art, but also brings back the former glory of Lagos culture.
“We are already in discussions with arts and culture organizations and professionals, including national museums. The British Museum and private art collectors on the availability of compendiums and collections of works documenting the rich history of the Yoruba.”
Damilare Ojewole, a representative of Imagine Simply Architecture studio, which handled the project, cites the building’s tourist attractions as swimming pools, restaurants, a museum of artifacts, an outdoor birthday party arena, and travel booths.
“Other parts of the building are offices, seminar rooms, a library, an orientation theater and more. We have pools for children and adults with standardized dimensions and half Olympic size,” he adds.
Ojewole notes that the state government also thought of the physically challenged with a plan to install a disabled lift that would facilitate their movements around the centre.
history of the center
John Randle, a prominent Lagosian and the first West African to qualify as a doctor in the UK, had a public swimming pool built in 1928 in King George V Park, which later became Love Garden – a popular recreational area. This grand gesture was inspired by the British Colonial Office’s refusal to build a pool for Lagosians to learn to swim. After completing the pool and garden, Dr. Rand the facilities to the Lagos City Council with a maintenance purse to ensure upkeep. It is the old arena that has now become an internationally recognized cultural center.
Designed by SI.SA Architects, the center is part of an urban renewal project in the heart of Lagos Island, a historic part of the city. The project aims to restore a 1928 public swimming pool with modernized facilities and to create a central community building with a 1,000 square meter exhibition gallery that tells the history and culture of the Yoruba people on a journey from their beginnings to the present day, in the Future. Both interventions are set within a landscaped park, a homage to the 18th-century King George V Park, which was developed over the last century.