Tag Archives: Lemi and Fela
Only a few months before naming the Kalakuta Republic, in 1974, Lemi became friends with the Afrobeat legend, Fela Kuti.
‘It’s been pre-ordained that my path would cross with Fela’s for the purpose of celebrating Africa’
They shared Pan-Africanist views about the unity of African people and Black consciousness, and Lemi started frequenting the Republic, working there and attending the shows at the Shrine. He knew Fela’s tracks inside out because they were performed live months before they were recorded, so he grasped the concept of the albums and designed a ‘translation’ of them through his own point of view when designing the covers. He received guidance from Fela only on two of them: Johnny Just Drop and Sorrow, Tears and Blood .
Lemi describes Fela in the following way:
‘He had a very strong character, very radical, but also a soft and human side. I was using different techinques to express the different character sensitivities: ink and pencil for Sorrow, Tears and Blood, oil when I wanted some more fleshy and realistic colours.’
Lemi comments on the deterioration of his relationship with Fela, explaining it by the difference in their characters:
‘Fela is a genius, an iconoclast, a humanist, a liberator, a maverick, many things rolled into one. Creative geniuses, when they get to their heights, they are eccentric in nature.’
With a month and a bit left until the launch of the Art’s Own Kind exhibition, we kick off the buzz here by getting an insight into the story behind the event and Lemi Ghariokwu’s contribution to the Afrobeat movement. His work reflects the vibrant atmosphere of African culture and also makes a statement about Black people’s ideals and strife within society.
So, the following posts will give a bit of info and background to how Lemi established himself as Nigeria’s most prolific record sleeve designer, since his collaboration and friendship with Fela Kuti overshadows him as an artist to the extent that he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry (actually I just might do that…). As I said in the blog’s description, each post is meant to be an incitement to interactive dialogue, so it would be great if you could drop any thoughts and feelings about what’s here.