Exploring the Ransome Kuti Heritage Museum: A Look at the History of the Activist Family
Updated: Apr 12
A popular place of interest in the town of Abeokuta is the Ransome Kuti family house - childhood home of the Ransome Kuti siblings - Dolapo, Olikoye, Fela and Beko. Now known as the Ransome Kuti Heritage Museum, it has been repurposed into a repository that houses the legacy of one of Nigeria's most influential families across history.
The Ransome Kuti's have made significant (understatement) contributions to art, religion, education and medicine in Nigeria, and their influence stretches far beyond the country's boarders, therefore this was a must see for me, as I was getting an insight into the lives of these gifted minds.
The house itself is quite unique. A 2-floor building set in concrete and granite but its the details that elevate the structure to the point of elegance. The cracked-glass patterning in the front walls as well as the symbols in the balcony make it unlike the others in the area. As I observed these minute details, I could sense the strong aura of creativity in the space.
The building boasts of a simple yet functional design and is finished with an earthen and artistic touch. The compound is spacious and in addition to the main structure, features an open-air space for relaxing in the backyard, an adjoining garage and a secondary structure for housing more family memorabilia.
The interior of the main house is spacious which isn't immediately obvious from the outside and much of the interior aesthetic such as the furniture, appliances, musical instruments and decorations has been kept unchanged. The rustic feel was cleverly maintained on the upper floor, while the ground floor has now been converted to an information space about the Kuti's.
The project lay dilapidated for many years, and after much back and forth over it's renovation, it's great to see a public-private partnership manifest in this way.
The tour costs N2,000 per adult and a guide takes you on an engaging journey through the facility and through the timeline of their lives. Fela Anikulapo Kuti is undoubtedly the most popular member of this family, gaining popularity as a musician, a vocal political activist and a pan-africanist, he is regarded as the pioneer of Afrobeat which is a combination of West African music and American funk and jazz. The rest of the siblings...
Their stories would not be complete however without spotlighting the roles their parents played in their lives, their mother in particular. Born to educationist parents (Israel Oluduton Ransome-Kuti and Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti), the siblings were raised with a passion for justice and equity, their mother serving as a strong role model in this regard. She was a woman before her time, an educator, a feminist, a political and women's rights activist and her stories are severely under documented in the history of Nigeria.
Chief Funmilayo Ransome Kuti was born in Abeokuta on the 25th of October 1900, and she would go on to be the first female student to attend the Abeokuta Grammar School. Her early adult years were spent teaching and organizing some of the first preschool classes in the country, before travelling to London in 1919 to further her studies. The experience was unsavory for her due to the racism she experienced, so she dropped her English names Frances, Abigail and Thomas, and became known as Funmilayo.