The New Afrika Shrine in Lagos was built and operated by Femi and Yeni Anikulapo Kuti, the eldest son and daughter of cultural icon, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, who built the original Shrine in the seventies, which endured until shortly after his death in 1997 when it, too, was forcibly closed by the Nigerian authorities. The new Shrine was forcibly closed down last week by the authorities who gave less than 24 hours notice and claimed “noise nuisance, illegal street trading, indiscriminate parking, blocking of access roads and obstruction of traffic” as their justification.
Both the old and new Shrines were much more than just music venues. They were a refuge for the underpriviledged and acted as a focal point for dissent and thus became a hindrance to the authority of the ruling elite. Fela used the stage to launch eloquently savage diatribes against the corruption and mismanagement that was rife in Nigeria, one of the world’s leading oil producing countries, and was a hero to millions for the acid, non-compromising social commentary in his lyrics. In the 70’s and 80’s people flocked to the Shrine to hear Fela’s latest protest against the country’s leaders and enjoy the powerful music and performance by Fela and his band hosted by the Kalakuta Republic, ruled by Fela who called himself the Black President.
Fela paid the price of his rebellion by being constantly harassed, arrested (over 200 times) and beaten by the police, but this did not diminish the force of his attacks over time.
Following his death and the forced closure of his beloved Shrine, Femi and Yeni resolved to re-build an even bigger venue on a nearby site and used their share of income from the global sale of Fela’s albums with which to do so.
They were determined to maintain their Father’s legacy and considered the heritage of shelter, support and advocacy as being the most valuable contributions they could make towards the development and creation of a united and democratic African republic. According to authorities, the venue has been permanently closed, but a petition to re-open the site will be forwarded to Nigeria’s Minister of Culture.