Afro-Brazilian architecture in Lagos State : a case for conservation
The immigrants of African descent who began arriving in Lagos and Badagry in the early nineteenth century included not only Afro-Brazilians, but also Afro-Cubans, Afro-Americans, Afro- Canadians (freed slaves from Nova Scotia) and Sierra Leonians (Saros). Of these the Afro-Brazilians and the Saros constituted the largest and most dominant groups. The Afro-Brazilians were the descendants of African slaves (mostly from West Africa and Angola) taken to Brazil. They returned to West Africa between the 1820s and 1890s. Collectively, in Nigeria the Afro-Brazilians and the Afro- Cubans were referred to as `Brazilians' or Aguda (Yoruba word for Catholics) probably because the majority of both these groups were Catholics. The Saros were the descendants of Yoruba slaves from southwestern Nigeria. Some of these slaves were on their way to the Americas to be sold but were rescued by the British anti-slavery squadron along the West African coast. They were then resettled in Freetown, Sierra Leone, which was founded in the eighteenth century by an Englishman named Granville Sharp. Other Saros were African slaves (mostly of Yoruba origin) who have been in England since the early seventeenth century. They were repatriated to Sierra Leone after the abolition of slavery in Great Britain. After Lagos was ceded to the British by Oba Dosunmu in 1861, many more Saros were encouraged to return to Yorubaland by the colonial administration. The Saro community lived in the Saro quarter alongside the Afro-Brazilian community in the Brazilian quarter of Lagos. Like the Afro-Brazilians, they also produced a significant genre of architecture and a distinctive creole culture during the nineteenth century. The Saro architectural style was largely based on a combination of the British colonial style and the Yoruba traditional spatial arrangement. Although the Saros contributed immensely to the development of architecture in Lagos, they were not nearly as renowned for their building design and construction skills as the Afro-Brazilians were. This study is concerned primarily with the architecture created by the Afro-Brazilians as distinct from the Saros, whose architecture undoubtedly merits study in its own right.