Category Archives: Meanings

Lemi about inspiration

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.’

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As far as inspriational adjuvants are concerned, Lemi declares he doesn’t drink and doesn’t smoke : ‘I dont womanise, but humanizeand 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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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