Divine Collaboration: on Lemi Ghariokwu, Fela Kuti and tumultuous, creative love

“You know I told you – when we talk, I can talk,” Lemi Ghariokwu said, laughing. “I learnt that from Kalakuta, from Fela.” Ghariokwu is a visual artist most famous for his work with Fela Kuti, the iconic Nigerian Afrobeat singer. Ghariokwu designed the cover art for 29 out of Kuti’s 56 albums; the musician and the painter worked closely—artistically, ideologically, and in their activism—for four years in Lagos before they splintered. It was not a romantic relationship, although it had all the trying tempests, emotional investment, and eventual heartache of one. Their meeting, Ghariokwu said, “was pre-ordained, it wasn’t by accident, so our destinies had to cross at that juncture.” When they broke up, Ghariokwu was devastated, “I was so shocked, I just started crying, that was my natural reaction. It was like a lover breaking your heart in shreds.” Later years were peppered with tinged encounters, brief run-ins followed by nostalgia and resolute distance. Cover deals were formalized, invitations sent on letterhead. But they kept tabs on each other from a distance, and Ghariokwu still speaks to Kuti now — “I looked in the sky and said ‘Fela come and see now, you see.’”

Read here: https://www.itsnicethat.com/features/lemi-ghariokwu-fela-kuti-lagos-art-070918


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