Since artwork complements the music, with the occasion of the new Fela show hitting the UK, watch a video with artist Lemi Ghariokwu giving an insight into the creation of Fela’s album sleeves:
Category Archives: Meanings
Lemi’s art makes a strong statement about how African people have adopted Western values and thus lost freedom of thought and action as a result of the colonialist era. Even now, the strands of colonialist mentality are still visible through the Western potrayal of African culture, impregnated with prejudices of the Black continent being an under-developed and savage environment.
The Black man and woman is still colonised today. Look all around you and see what I mean. Most of the women in Africa and the Diaspora have their hair permed permanently. We wear Western clothes in Africa. We speak English to our children as the first and major language. Our culture and tradition is rapidly disappearing. With Christianity and Islam in total dominance as religions of Black people, tell me how Black art cannot and still continue to be colonised today? We’ve got to first emancipate ourselves from mental slavery before our minds and art can release itself from being colonised.
Lemi distinguishes between the image of Africa thaWestern culture has produced and the representation he gives to his own culture:
The primitive image of Africa is represented by the Western information machinery. It is mostly about wars, hunger, starvation and underdevelopment. I’m trying to portray the image of our society albeit critical at times but in the vein of us taking a look at what is wrong to come up with a progressive and lasting solution. The image of hope, self worth, pride and dignity of the African. This I hope to leave as my legacy.
I missed designing a Peter Tosh cover. He is my reggae hero. I met him twice in the 1980s during his private visits to Lagos. I asked him about the ‘No Nuclear War’ cover and he smiled and said: “Neville Garrick already finished work on it.” Today, right now in Nigeria, I would love to do a cover for Asa, I love her music and message but I’m not gonna go ask for that myself!!!
He also named his son after Peter Tosh, but as he did not want an English name he added an African twist to it and the result is: Omotosho.
Exciting news! We’ve got four silk screen prints designed by Swifty which will be on sale at the exhibition and 25% of the sales will go to War Child Charity. Yes, you’ve read it right…the master of fonts himself, Swifty! The price of the prints is to be confirmed, but it will be just under 100 pounds. Further details of the artworks: they are black and silver printed on 315 gdm heritage woodfree white cartridge size 686 m high by 508 mm wide, signed and numbered by the artists, in an edition of 25.
And here are the prints, with the following titles (in order): Afrika 70, Black President, Blackism, and Freedom & Truth :
You can see Swifty has reworked Lemi’s fonts from Fela’s sleeves and gave his drawings a new fresh/city look. So, we’ve got a delightful cross-over of two great artists, Lemi and Swifty, mashing up Brit urban design with the exotic African vibe impregnated with a strong social message.
‘I wish to take my works around the world, spread my philosphy. That’s my dream. So, that’s the fulfilment of my destiny. Nigerian society worships money and materials, but I’m not crazy about all that. Money will come later.’
Art’s Own Kind is hoping to do that: bring his work into people’s attention and echo his ideas worldwide.
Along with the Pan-Africanist ideology, the main source of inspiration for the album sleeves was, of course, Fela’s music with its effervescent lyrics.
But Lemi talks about artistic inspiration more generally, saying:
‘It comes from your immediate environment if you are observant enough. If you’re calm enough to listen and reason and be in tune with the infinite source that is within every human entity. So my inspiration comes from people who had been before me and had left behind legacies for me. Specifically, I was born with a pan-African frame of mind.’
As far as inspriational adjuvants are concerned, Lemi declares he doesn’t drink and doesn’t smoke : ‘I dont womanise, but humanize‘ and doesn’t believe in external influence too much. The only time he used drugs was when he designed the album cover for No Bread because Fela insisted that he tried a concoction of Igbo (marijuana) to ‘elevate’ his talent. He did not recourse to it again; instead, he uses meditation to achieve the same ‘high’.
So we can see how his work is a meeting point for influences and ideas from the social context they were created in and the inner realm of feelings and human consciousness.