an Amaro Afrobrazillian house in Lagos
An afrobrazillian house in Lagos, Source: JD Ojeikere

Aguda is the term used for Yoruba Brazilian returnees in 19th Century Lagos. Many of these people, also known as emancipados, or Amaros were captured from the interior in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century and exported to Bahia in Brazil. The immigration of Amaros were concurrent with those of the Saros, Yorubas who came from Sierra Leone. Many Yorubas from the Americas took advantage of the favourable manumission laws in Brazil to emancipate themselves. Joined with emigrants from Cuba, the Amaros numbered up to 300 in 1862. They were originally Egba, Ijebu, Ibadan, Ife, or Oyo, repatriating to Lagos, from the first half of the 19th Century to an initially cold reception, and thereby preserving an insular life dominated by Brazilian occupational and cultural practices which they accustomed to. These cross-cultural returnees, possibly persuaded by the Oba of Lagos Akitoye‘s emissary to Brazil in the late 1840s, Oshodi Tapa, occupied on return, a district behind Oke Faji where the Church Missionary Society obtained a land from Akitoye. The place was called Brazilian town, sometimes, Popo Aguda (Portuguese Street) or Popo ‘Maro.

In 1871, Amaros numbered 1,273, a little lesser than the Saros. In the late 1800s and at the turn of the century, they built houses of bright pastel colours with balcony grills, dormers and attic spaces. The windows were large with a pointed gothic shape. The houses were ornate, sometimes garish but very well crafted. Unlike fellow Africans whose hair was usually cropped short, Aguda people of Lagos took great pride in parting their hair and wearing costly shoes, thereby imitating the civilization of the whites and the splendor of the Obas.

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer