My friend schlumberger came to town, and we have this ritual where we always try to meet up, catch up on life and just faff around before he’s on the next flight out, heading back to his reality.
I nicknamed him schlumberger because he works there, I’m not sure he fancies the name but if you’re reading this, I’m letting you know again that it’s here to stay. 🙂
Schlumberger asked me to decide where we would meet up this time because according to him, I am now a local tourist (this made me very happy), but I told him I didn’t mind where we went, and I’m glad I let him choose.
Schlumberger told me everytime he’s in Nigeria, he always goes to Terra Kulture. He says he’s always there, and he wasn’t lying. The staff there know him by his government name. He said if he ever goes missing and I’m looking for him, that should be the first place I check.
Terra Kulture is in summary a one stop centre for Nigerian culture. It has a bookshop, African gift centre, art gallery, library etc. If I was asked to describe afropolitan using a place, it would be terra kulture. Schlumberger told me ‘Terra’ is latin for land, so essentially Terra Kulture means ‘land of culture’.
Terra Kulture from outside looks very unassuming. The architecture is simple but pleasant and I noticed a small garden.
I got inside, did a quick scan and didn’t see schlumberger so I thought to myself ‘as usual I’m the first person to get here’. How wrong I was.
I just stood at the entrance with one of the waiters whose name is Solomon, and told him I would work with him for the day. For 5 mins I stood there saying ‘welcome to terra kulture’ to everyone who came inside.
While doing that, I noticed terra kulture has its quirks and was totally different from how I imagined when I saw it from outside. In my opinion, it has a coffee shop feel to it, just a lot bigger with more to offer. You can tell the atmosphere is very relaxed and people are just going about doing their thing. I even noticed some people sitting quietly and reading books. It also has a rustic feel to it.
Anyway schlumberger calls me up and asks where I am, apparently he had been in the bookshop looking for something to read.
I headed to the bookshop to look for him and I noticed that chairs had been arranged in the middle. Apparently there was a book reading scheduled for that day.
I also saw that apart from books, they had little gift items which were all African. When I say African, I mean made by Africans, or depicting something African eg pillows with Nigerian sayings on them, woven cloth baskets, ankara, leather bracelets, just little things promoting Africanism (don’t know if that’s a real word, but Seun Kuti would beg to differ and you’ll see why below).
While Schlumberger was looking for books to purchase, I got to taking pictures.
Can you see the pillows with ‘oga at the top’ written on them? If you’ve seen the interview then you know why it’s hilarious.
On the wall in the library, they have all the names of everyone who was governor general of Nigeria.
When he was done, we headed to the food lounge which is on the right when you come out of the bookshop. I was told that the reading room used to be in the bookshop but was moved to another side because the noise from the food lounge was becoming unbearable.
We got a table for lunch and Solomon our waiter and my new friend brought the menu.
Their furniture is obviously African themed, proper bamboo tables with carvings in some of them and depending on where you sit, the back of your chair may be knitted raffia gotten from palm trees.
Any one know where I can get this ying yang salt and pepper holder? Pretty nifty.
I looked through the menu and noticed everything is African. No such thing as braised lamb chops with roasted sweet potatoes and dumplings on the side type of grammar (not that there’s anything wrong with this type of food).
I ordered the ofada rice and sauce with snails on the side and my friend got asaro (Yoruba for yam porridge) with snails too.
While we waited for our meal, they brought us some chin chin and groundnuts with our drinks, which was chapman. I was more interested in the chin chin.
It was quiet, but noisy at the same time. It wasn’t unbearable noise, it was just enough to keep the atmosphere alive, but still quiet enough to hear your own thoughts. I could hear people reciting lines, probably for an upcoming play or movie, some people quietly sat in the corner reading a book and having lunch, I absolutely loved it, definitely my kind of place.
Schlumberger told me they were planning on renovating the place and showed me the proposed replica of what it was going to look like. I wasn’t feeling it. It looked like a shopping complex, but they say never judge a book by its cover so I’ll wait.
That’s what they hope the new building will look like.
As I was heading back to my seat, I noticed a couple of guys were very excited about someone who had just come in. It was Kunle Afolayan. I don’t know if you guys know of him, but he’s a Nigerian actor and director. His latest movie is ‘October 1st’. I doubt it’s still in the cinemas, but if you can, try and watch it. It’s good.
The food came, yayy! We tucked in and just talked about everything and nothing all at the same time. The food was good and I quite enjoyed it.
How cool is this? Instead of looking for your waiter, you just press any of those buttons and someone comes to you.
Terra Kulture turned 10 this year, so they got a couple of famous Nigerians who have contributed in music, literature, arts etc to say something about terra kulture.
When we were done eating, we went up to see the art gallery. I LOVED the concept of the stairway. The handles are made of ropes while the stairway itself is made of circular carved cane. Cool right?
Those people were reciting lines for a play. Can you see the man looking at me with suspicion?
The art gallery occupies the 1st floor and just has different paintings/sculptures by artists and all that arty stuff. Still learning about art, so unfortunately I can’t be very descriptive. Schlumberger tried to explain the technique of some of them, but he lost me. I did get a couple of pictures though.
The couple at the far end were my favourite. I want the whole collection. They have them dressed up in different traditional attires. Looks just like a Yoruba woman. LOL. They cost N4500 each. (15GBP/$25)
Schlumberger looking like a distinguished gentleman.
While on the stair way I took some pictures of awards and other things hanging on the wall.
Some awards won by terra kulture and its owner Mrs Bolanle Austen-Peters.
We go back downstairs to our table after immersing ourselves in the artwork and ring for the bill. The bill was between the N7000-N8000 mark (24-28GBP/$38-$44).
In my true childlike fashion, I started playing with all the buttons. (think Deedee in Dexters lab). We paid and I teased Solomon about employing me.
It was a good day and I totally loved the atmosphere there. I didn’t want to leave but schlumberger had a flight to catch later so it was good bye terra kulture.
On our way out I insisted we go and see what their theatre looks like. They have a theatre at the back as they regularly have plays or musicals showing. If you go there you can always ask for their time table and they’ll be happy to show you.
They currently have a stage performance going on called ‘Aburi ’67’. Check it out if you’re into theatre.
Would I go back to terra kulture? Yes, I loved that everyone could come in and do what they liked and not be judged. I also liked seeing ‘the creatives’ sitting down and just sharing ideas.
So my verdict, you should definitely check it out especially if you’re into quiet, rustic places. Like Seun Kuti said, ‘terra is a place to get kultured about Afrikanism’
They are located at 1376 Tiamiyu Savage Street, off Ahmadu Bello Way, Victoria Island, Lagos. If you know Ocean basket, it’s the same street.
If you need to know anything, you can visit their website here.
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*Chapman is a Nigerian cocktail which is a mixture of ribena blackcurrant, aromatic bitters, lemons, grenadine syrup, oranges, fanta and sprite.
Chin chin is a popular fried snack in Nigeria made of dough of wheat flour.