I first heard about the musician and activist Fela Kuti from the musical Fela! Unfortunately, I never actually got to see the musical, so my knowledge of Fela Kuti was mostly limited to the fact that he is considered to be the pioneer of Afrobeat, as well as listening to a smattering of his songs here and there. Which is why I jumped at the chance to learn more about him at an exhibition about his life and legacy that is currently running at the Philharmonie. And learn more about him did I ever.
For one thing, I never realized just how integral Fela’s activism was to his music. Nor how politically active he was throughout his lifetime. I also never knew how persecuted he was over the years, and how many times he was subjected to raids and/or imprisonment. And it certainly was eye-opening to learn about how he founded an independent state within his compound in Lagos, where he proceeded to live with his 27 wives. Not exactly what I thought I would learn.
But I also listened to a lot of incredible music that may or may not have had me dancing in the middle of the exhibition hall. And I really liked how the exhibition included artworks from artists who either worked directly with Fela or were inspired by him. There were lots of artworks to choose from when deciding what to feature for today’s daily helping, but I was particularly drawn to the piece by Lemi Ghariokwu above. It somehow manages to be the perfect encapsulation of Fela’s life. Vibrant and defiant. Just like Fela.
Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!