Category Archives: Bio

Lemi’s Afro Beat Art

Watch an exclusive video with Lemi talking about his early career, meeting Fela Kuti and his recent work by clicking the link below
Lemi Ghariokwu: Afro Art Beat from Damien Priest on Vimeo.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bio, Meanings

Wax Poetics Magazine: Africa Issue starring Lemi

Lemi Ghariokwu returns in 2010 with a feature article in Wax Poetics issue no. 39!  Read the full article and take a look at some exclusive pictures by clicking the following link: Wax Poetics 39.Lemi017

1 Comment

Filed under Bio

Lemi and artistic education

Lemi did not have any formal training, but chose to sustain his ingenuity, following Fela’s advice : ‘He had advised me against compromising my pristine initiatives through institutional training’ . Lemi talks about first learning European drawing techniques and then adding the African touch, but as Fela told him, you could learn the basics yourself from a book, but when it comes to creating, the start should be fresh and non-impoverished by the past. Fela himself was trained to play classics, but the musician ended up playing original Afro.africa-lemi

Fela told us that education will stick on us a post-colonial mentality which will blind us from seeing the social reality in Africa‘.

So much for education’s power to free minds. Lemi proudly declares:

       ‘I am a student of the University of Life’.

lemi-in-studio

 

As for inspiring the upcoming generations, Lemi promises he will continue to give free training to all the apprentices who come his way.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bio

Lemi and drawing Fela’s music

Fela Kuti’s music cannot be detached from the statements it makes for freedom and African tradition and culture, belonging to Pan Africanist ideology. So the socio-political implications of the songs are essential to understanding his music and the context that led to its creation. Lemi remembers: ‘ at the end of the 60’s the Black Panther movement was very prominent. That marked my generation‘. There was a struggle for human rights, ethnic equality, eradication of black people’s oppression and institutional abuse, especially directed towards the justice and police forces.

lemi-work

Lemi already shared the Pan Africanist thoughts of people unity through African heritage, influenced by Kwame Nkrumah, Malcom X and Marcus Gravey, so he was familiar with Fela’s ideas and found it easy to design the covers.

I always try to understand their modus operandi in order to arrive an accurate concept. For instance 99% of Fela’s covers were done by me… because I understand his thinking’ comments Lemi on his approach to illustrating an album.

He was inspired by Fela’s music, being fascinated by the chaotic, explosive and funny side of it, taking the song’s lyrics as his guide to create the sleeves. However, this does not mean that his illustrations are mere depictions of the lyrics’ narrative, rather, Lemi classfies as an interpretative artist.

Each album jacket participates in a combat, since Lemi describes the artistic goal as:

We have a lot of work to accomplish in order to re-educate Africans. Colonialism and Neo-Colonialism have so profoundly affected the intellect of the continent

black-president

Make sure you check the collection of sleeves Lemi has created for Fela’s albums here and explore Lemi’s artistic universe in the blog’s link to Art’s Own Kind Flickr sets.

2 Comments

Filed under Bio, Meanings

Lemi Ghariokwu – the bio facts

Lemi, also called the inventor of ‘Lagos Afro Pop Art’, was born in Lagos in 1955 and has always had a keen interest in art. He had no formal training, but his mother was artistic, as she used to weave and trace drawings, and his sister also used to draw, but never took it seriously.

kalakuta-show

Lemi says he used to paint Mickey and other cartoons when he was a kid and this shows in his style: a cross between illustration and cartoon, his album jackets displaying a diverse narrative pattern which actually tells the story about the social issues the lyrics of the songs approach. Lemi designed 26 album sleeves for Fela over 19 years. But how did he get to meet the king of Afrobeat?

In 1974, he became friends with Fela through an acquaintanceship with the journalist Babatunde Harrison, who has seen a drawing of Lemi’s in a bar they both used to go to. He asked Lemi to do a portrait of Fela and then gave it to him. The musician was impressed and tried to give Lemi money for it, but he refused it and instead got a pass for all of Fela’s shows.

This was the year of the naming of Kalakuta Republic, so Lemi started frequenting the place and assimilating the ideology, already having a Pan-Africanist mindframe: ‘I spent my life at the Shrine. I worked alone. I did my drawings there’, said Lemi. He was the YAP (Young African Pioneers) news editor, designing 2 cartoons a week (one colour, one black & white) depicting and criticizing what happened over the week, as the organization also used to make ‘subversive’ posters which were banned in 1977.

1976-yap-news-cartoon-21

Once he got into the business, he became quite prolific and now his clientele includes artists from Ghana, Cameroun and beyond. People on rotation at his place include: Ras Kimono, Charlie Boy, Shina Peters, Sunny Ade, Alhaji Kollington, Evi Edna Ogosi, The Mandators , Majek Fashek, Alex O.
He is also into sculptures, public paintings, general graphic works, magazine paste-ups, corporate stationaries and other artistic endeavours.

12 Comments

Filed under Bio