One of the most cosmopolitan and culturally diverse cities in Nigeria, Lagos is an ideal location to explore the country’s history, even as it unfolds – and there is no better place to get to know a people than through its museums.
Formerly home to Fela Anikulapo-Kuti – superstar, polygamist, Pan-Africanist, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and the genius behind the creation of the Afrobeat genre – this museum is dedicated to preserving his legacy of protest music. A well-designed space that is an archive to his activism, music, fashion and day-to-day life. Don’t breathe too deeply though, you might get high.
A rather messily kept museum but worth the visit none the less, for its collection of beautifully designed calabashes – the royal crowns and emblems representative of the ancient kingdoms that made up the country pre-colonialism – from almost every part of Nigeria. There are also lots of sculptures and art pieces excavated from the Nok Village (an early Iron Age culture) in Kaduna.
Established in 1502, the Vlekete Slave Market used to be a market and auction place for European slave merchants. It became a central meeting point for negotiating with African middlemen and today it stands as a monument of remembrance to all the people who were sent away.
Located in the heart of Lagos, Freedom Park is a not only a national memorial and historical landmark, it is also an arts and recreation centre. It is dedicated to preserving the history of one of Her Majesty’s colonial-era prisons, where many of the men who fought for Nigeria’s independence were at one time or other inmates. It holds a large collection of sculptures and installations, which are dotted around its vast grounds.
One of the advantages of this gallery-cum-museum is its location, within the premises of the National Arts Theatre. The theatre is a piece of history itself, as it was the site of the largest gathering of black artists, dramatists, musicians and poets from all over the world, and the breeding ground of the Pan-Africanism movement.
Another monument of the slave trade, the Seriki Faremi Abass Museum was the home of a slave who became a slave merchant. The museum is not only an important part of the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, it also documents the life of slaves and the harsh conditions under which the trade was carried out.
Built in 1863, this museum is home to artefacts and documentations of Nigeria’s history predating colonialism. A special section is dedicated to the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which enables the visitor to literally walk in the shoes of the men and women who were its victims. Also located within the grounds of the museum is the first Christian Mission House in Badagry.
This museum holds one of the largest collections of anthropological artefacts concerning the trans-Atlantic slave trade. A painful but necessary walk can be taken through the museum to the pier where the slaves were taken across the seas.
Established in 1983, the Didi Museum is the first privately owned museum in the country and serves as a forum for research and preservation of arts and culture in Nigeria. It also serves as an art gallery where contemporary Nigerian arts are exhibited regularly.
Built in 1898, Jaekel House is a 100-year-old colonial structure, located on a large expanse of land within the Railway Corporation Compound, along Murtala Mohammed Way in Lagos Mainland. The museum showcases photographic archives dating from the 1940s through the 1970s, depicting historical events, people, and places in Nigeria. It is only open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10AM to 4PM.