Meet Kelechi Anabara…documenting colonial history

Meet Kelechi Anabara...documenting colonial history

Meet Kelechi Anabara

The first Europeans to arrive in what became Nigeria, landed onshore around the 15th Century. The whole area was later colonized by these visitors who traded, evangelized and formed a government before leaving in the 1960s. Because of this, much of Nigeria’s aesthetic history- architecture, food, language, and culture have many foreign influences, and one person documenting the traces left by the Europeans is Kelechi Anabara.

Kelechi is fascinated with old colonial buildings. He is doing an important work documenting these buildings, when they were built, who lived in them, historical events that happened in them and what European culture influenced the architecture.

African Church Arch Cathedral not Saint Jude’s


Tell us about kelechi Anabara

Kelechi Anabaraonye is a 400L political science of the University of Lagos who has a penchant for historical colonial architecture and colonial history. He started off with this passion as a result of the colonial structures he came in contact with while studying at the prestigious King’s College, Lagos, which also boasts of historical structures as well, which he was curious about until his research which he had started off in 2009 as a result of a new cyber cafe that opened for the first time around his house, merging the info and the photographs of the structures.


Why colonial buildings?

Colonial buildings intrigue me a lot, one of the things been the façades, the doorways which were all hand crafted, the window style as similar to Salvador, Bahia and not failing to mention the fact that these structures have been there for centuries and decades, outlasting the modern structures the nation felt would replace and outlast the historical structures. Also it’s to note that the history attached to these buildings are iconic and extremely regal which melts my heart.

Ore-Ofe House, Abeokuta


When did you start documenting colonial buildings?

I started 2014 proper when I got the phone I’m currently using [iPhone 5], but I had already been conscious of their existence while I was studying at King’s College, Lagos.


What fuels your passion for documenting these historical buildings?

Their history, the people that owned them, their architectural styles which are over the top, which you’ll find in many parts of this world properly preserved, and also the ages of these buildings. I’ll also note that the fact that we have these type of buildings across West Africa in countries like Cape Verde, Senegal, Ghana, Sierra Leone and with the fact that these buildings are preserved shows a lot in terms of our love for history and built heritage, which for Nigeria is on a zero level, seeing these buildings online in these cities across the continent and the former slave hubs of the Caribbean and Latin America in their beautiful look also intrigues me and melts my heart.

interior of Saint Jude not African Church


How easy/difficult has getting access to the buildings and getting information about them been?

Getting access to these buildings is quite difficult, I’ll never fail to say that God goes before me whenever I am to embark on a tour or my personal walks which I’ve been doing for three years, and honestly it’s funny or weird but when I get to these places and then everything works out fine for me, even though I encounter some arguments but at the end of the day, very difficult locations like the Old Government House was an experience I’ll never forget in my life and which I’m grateful to God. On the other hand, the information of these buildings vary across the internet, even the federal government and state governments don’t have basic information about these buildings, it’s funny that journalists, researchers etc have to meet family members and people that currently live in these buildings to get proper information that the government is very ignorant in putting up on the internet for the current generation and next generations. Access largely to these buildings especially residential or commercial buildings which have been taken over by banks and private firms are very difficult, and one can only get facade images of these buildings.


What building so far has given you the OMG effect?

Ah ! Lord. The Old Government House gave me that effect. Walking around, inside the compound and just looking directly at the building that Queen Elizabeth was received by Sir James Robertson in 1956 really just moved me. I’ll say that when I got into the Cathedral of St. Jude, I was literally jaw dropped. Of course I work fail to mention the interior of the African Church Arch Cathedral Bethel, sigh, the Gothic-like pillars holding the ceiling/roof really wowed me. But beyond Lagos, the Ore Ofe House is a stunner, in Olumo Area of Abeokuta, the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Calabar is also a historical building that I didn’t want to leave. I don’t really have one building that has wowed me basically but I get really emotional when I visit some historical structures, closely observing the details, sigh.


What do you think is the most important information you’ve learnt so far from documenting these buildings?

Herbert Macaulay designed the Hephzibah House around 1924/1925, the Old Government House last importantly housed Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe before the military government took over, the Campos Square was first recorded proper in the 1840s/1850s, Bagandogi Benjamin designed two cathedrals in Lagos; Cathedral Church of Christ and the African Church Arch Cathedral Bethel.


Which is your most precious shot and why?

I’ll say I don’t really have a most precious but because of the relevance of the Old Government House, there’s a particular shot that I took of it, I really love it.


On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate the importance of History in our educational system?

10 ! Like who would really ask on a scale of 1-10 [not saying it because of you guys but it’s ESSENTIAL]. Whoever says we don’t need history or these buildings don’t know what they’re up for in the coming decades. It’s often said that “a country that doesn’t know where it’s coming from, doesn’t appreciate it, uphold it, doesn’t know where it’s going to”.


What would you recommend for the preservation of our historical buildings? 


A law backed historical areas across the country, review of the NCMM law dated 1999 concerning these historical structures, a proper update of the fine section which states 500 and 1,000 naira for alterations or demolitions, on the other hand, the government needs to effectively use the money geared towards this for the specific job. The government needs to check on the agencies and ministries which are created for this. The NCMM is a failure, we are not looking at that, they’ve not done anything since 1982, why are they still receiving federal allocation? Nothing works in this country. Why was the NCMM created? They are not doing their job, it’s a heinous crime to these buildings because the Ilojo Bar fell as a result of an inefficient and ghost agency. There also needs to be an educational programme or outreach to locals concerning these building, their essence, the reason why they should be preserved and what the locals need to do to support the government on this. There’s also a need to collaborate with private firms, embassies etc on restoration projects but most importantly the Legacy 1995 Nigeria group needs to be involved in every restoration project and review of law.


Kelechi is on twitter @kelechinaba



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