Freedom Park is a recreational and creative centre that once was previously a colonial prison, ironic right? It was once called Her Majesty’s Broad Street prison, located on Broad Street in Lagos Island. It is a great place to appreciate nature and be inspired to create art or just enjoy the hospitalities.
It’s a very serene park and the vegetation makes it perfect on a hot Lagos day. It really gives me Sunday afternoons in the garden vibes, complete with the smell of barbecue in the air!
We got the chance to meet Theo Lawson who designed and built the park – a project to mark Nigeria’s 50th independence day. He made us feel very welcome, much like the lush vegetation and told us about the park, its many attractions and historical significance. Fun fact, the obelisk pictured below marks the center of the park and it is half way between the ministry of justice and the gallows. I had been to the park before but I never realised how much information was here. It was almost like a treasure hunt.
Architecture-wise, the park is quite well thought out and the attention to detail in building a sustainable ecosystem is genius. The sound of moving water from the pink tilapia and koi pond further adds to the serenity of the park, and the fish waste is used to fertilize the greenery. You can purchase fish feed for a token amount as well. The park is also home to geese, cats and a variety of birds.
We continued exploring the park and you could see how the remains of the prison were cleverly turned into architectural expressions. Its hard to pick a favorite location, but the amphitheatre was definitely one of them. I got to meet the local roller blading community who frequently practice here – shinobi_blading.
The former prison cells section was also very interesting, from a geometric standpoint and chilling because each cell is a 4ft x 8ft box, dog kennel size. The anti-colonial martyrs were held here and it is interesting to note that the prison guards and executioner were chosen from Northern Nigeria, almost definitely a deliberate effort to divide the tribes.
The museum section was probably my favorite. Sculptures from the Alkebulan collection were featured and this collection was created to remove the fear and mistrust of African spirituality that seems to be commonplace in a lot of Nigerian minds. Being in their presence gave me goosebumps and the message was clear – remember your powerful roots.
There is a section of the museum that paints a picture of what life in the prison was like. It has plans of the prison, a replica of the inside of a cell, prisoner details and much more. It was quite surreal to see the chains that were used to bind them, prisoners from the 1800’s.
Walking around really works up an appetite so we decided to get a bite (more like several mouth-fulls) at the food court. Luckily for us, what used to be gallows now doubles as stage so we got a good show while we ate.
Food here is pretty affordable, a variety of vendors offering different medium-sized dishes for an average price of ₦1,200 ($3.15). It’s great because you don’t have to fill up on just one thing, bites here and there and you’ll still stay well under ₦3,000 ($7.87), unless you’re a vacuum cleaner…
Here’s a picture of the Yam and “Shasha” fish that I started with for ₦1,000($2.62). We were given some delicious Chicken Suya which costs ₦3,500($9.19), I recommend this. It was a surprising amount of meat and was great for sharing. My last meal, Eba and Egusi cost me ₦1,000 ($2.62), and I concluded that food isn’t a problem here, everything tasted great!
I really enjoyed my evening at the park and my favorite parts about it are the wealth of culture and information, the food and the atmosphere. It is a place that always has something new to teach and inspire you with and it almost guarantees a different, refreshing experience every time you go. A breath of fresh air from the heavy topic of colonialism.
Membership fees cost ₦ 40,000 ($105) a year/ ₦5,000($13.12) a month, but access to this treasure trove is priceless. Link to their website.