South Africa: Behind the Cover - the Entwined Geniuses of Fela Kuti and Lemi Ghariokwu


They worked together, weaving powerful art and music on 26 album covers, all of which explode with colours and striking imagery.

In the wake of the recent protests and killings that have shaken Nigeria, calling on the authorities for the ending of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's music and his fierce politics, often targeting the government in place and rooted in his "Kalakuta Republic", of which he was president, seem to achingly resonate with the times.

The Nigerian musician, who was to many an outspoken hero, wasn't shy in holding the country's government accountable, and his exuberance and insurgence manifested both through the energy of his music and the unrestrained visual art behind his album covers, 26 of which were designed by long-time collaborator Lemi Ghariokwu.

Ghariokwu gives a personal account of how his relationship with Fela started in an essay he wrote for Granta in 2013.

"In 1974, I earned Fela's trust and friendship through my acquaintanceship with the journalist Babatunde Harrison. Fela had just experienced his first beating and incarceration by the police and this gruesome experience inspired the hit song 'Alagbon Close', which was the first cover I designed."

The Alagbon Close vinyl...

More From: Daily Maverick

Don't Miss

AllAfrica publishes around 800 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.