Ilojo Bar, the historical relic built by Brazilian slaves in Nigeria

Stephen Nartey August 25, 2022
lojo Bar, Lagos Nigeria. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Yeniajayiii

It was once described as one of the most breathtaking architectures built by freed slaves who had returned from Brazil in the mid-19th century.

The Ilojo Bar was built in 1856. It was initially designed by the Fernandez family to operate as a bar and restaurant after they bought it from Anthony Ronkonton. However, in the 1930s, it was sold to Alfred Omolana Olaiya who renamed it Olaiya House. Situated in the heart of Lagos, the bar overlooks a non-functioning fountain.

What makes the relic strikingly imposing is the arches and fine works with art lovers describing the edifice as one that resonates with the Venetian Palace.   

The Federal Government of Nigeria later acquired the property because of its historical significance and declared it a national monument.

Historically, Ilojo Bar represents the cultural and social relics of the transatlantic slave trade. It encompasses the impact and influence freed slaves have had on how cosmopolitan urban Lagos has evolved over the last century.

Historians argue that the bar acts as an ancestral linkage between Nigerians and the diaspora in Brazil. The federal authorities have been accused of shirking their responsibility of maintaining the national monument.  

It’s now considered one of Nigeria’s lost monuments after its demolition on September 11, 2016, by the federal authorities. Many arts and historians have berated the Nigerian government over this move to raze to ashes such an endangered heritage site.

Ilojo Bar is considered the only surviving Brazilian relic in Africa’s most populous nation. The significance lies in the fact that it was built with crude architectural skills by African slaves returning home from South America.

The family told wiki loves monuments that it did its best to save the historical relic including seeking the intervention of former president Goodluck Jonathan to preserve the ancestral heritage.

An architect and a volunteer with Legacy, a non-profit working to save Lagos historic building, Peju Fatuyi, told CNN the federal government does not appreciate the significance of the bar and its linkage with Nigerian history.

According to him, the bar was where the Brazilian slaves resided while alive, adding that, sadly many of the buildings they lived in have been replaced by developers. He said these relics may not fit into modern architecture, but, historically they tell a story and have huge significance to the roots of Nigerian slaves.

Peju said what the country has lost is not only a moment of time but, the spirit and culture the bar signified. He said the Brazilian Embassy appreciated the significance of the structure when it was still in existence, describing its demolition as a national loss.

He said such destruction of historical relics is a reflection of the psyche of society and its appreciation of art and legacy.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: August 25, 2022


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