You will find Nigerians bearing the surname of Martins, Da Rochas, Campos, Da Costa, Da Silva, Cardoso, Marinho, Rodriguez, Gomez to name a few.
There are still so many stories to tell about black history on both sides of the Atlantic. Here’s a little black history lesson. Lagos is the most populated city in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country. The unofficial statistics estimate the population size of Lagos to be well over 20 million people living on a small peninsula and its surrounding islands. Within Lagos, you will surprisingly find the ‘Brazilian Quarters’. A unique neighborhood with an interesting history. How so? You may wonder. Well, this neighborhood in Lagos exists because of the people who became known as the Amaros or Agudas, the freed Afro-Brazilian slaves that left Brazil and returned to Nigeria to settle. These enslaved people were taken away from the coast of West Africa, what is current day Nigeria via Badagry, a coastal town in Lagos that borders Benin Republic and returned to Lagos Island located about 43 miles further along the coast.
Starting from the 1830s, many emancipated Africans, who had been through forced labour and discrimination in Brazil, began returning to West Africa. It is estimated that between 3,000 - 8,000 Afro-Brazilians returned between the first half of the 18th century and through the beginning of the 20th century. Many of these returnees settled in what is today known as Lagos - Nigeria, bringing along some cultural and social sensibilities adopted in Brazil. Bahia in Brazil is where the Nigeria-Brazil slave trafficking was most prevalent and it is from Bahia that most freed slaves returned from to set up a new life in Lagos, establishing a new community in their homeland. These returnees were welcomed by the locals and were given an area in Eastern Lagos to settle called Popo Aguda (pronounced kpo kpo), which later became known as the Brazilian Quarters.
The festivals, cuisine, and architecture in this area of Lagos all have a distinctive South American touch, due to the legacy of the Agudas. Even though much of the architecture has been demolished, this neighborhood continues to hold festivities every Easter, New Year, and Christmas, where Brazilian dishes, such as frejon and feijoada, are served to participants. You will find Nigerians bearing the surname of Martins, Da Rochas, Campos, Da Costa, Da Silva, Cardoso, Marinho, Rodriguez, Gomez to name a few, all due to their Portuguese ancestry—these are the Nigerian Afro-Brazilians.
The surface of this topic has barely been scratched. Nigeria was not the only location that ex-enslaved people returning from Brazil landed. There are the Tabon in Ghana, the Olympio family in Togo and others that settled in Benin Republic. This part of history is truly fascinating, that as early as the 1830s freed Africans found their way back to Motherland and reestablished themselves in their original culture with their new adopted Western cultures in tow.
Exploring and sharing the food and culture of black history on both sides of the Atlantic is something we shall continue to do here on the journal. There is truly much more to unpack here.
- Image 1: Badagry, Lagos - NIGERIA original slave route marker
- Image 2: Yayo Araromi House formerly at the junction of Tokunbo and Oshodi Streets in Popo Aguda, Lagos. This house was built by Lazaro Borghes Da Silva and António Nobre (image dated 1954)
- Image 3 (Left): Lazaro Borghes Da Silva (1897) one of the Afro-Brazilian master designers and builders. Da Silva and a gentleman named António Nobre built the Holy Cross Church, Water House and Elias House, on Elias St near Tinubu Square in Lagos - Nigeria
- Image 3 (Right): A Brazilian Carnival participant in Lagos - Nigeria in 1955.