art me africa

Design that Fela: Ghariokwu Lemi

Posted in Uncategorized by artmeafrica on December 24, 2008

Yellow Fever, 1976In 1976 the Black President of psychedelic Afrobeat sex, Fela Anikulapo Kuti churned out over half a dozen albums, and his Kalakutu Republic compatriot, Ghariokwu Lemi designed nearly all of them. For the two artists, 1976 marked a year of collaboration and medley of design possibility. In his only minimalist album cover for Fela, Zombie, Lemi matched Tunde Kuboye‘s photograph of painted boys into plastic toy nightmares to Fela’s siren to sing, make love ‘n art, and smoke against Nigeria’s corrupt government’s brutality. The cover marks a departure from the visual vocabulary of buxom lady(ies) of Yellow Fever and several of Fela’s pre-76 covers, Zombie acts like a serum to commence peaceful, yet confrontational protest. But the trajectory and use of photography didn’t last long. Lemi’s other ’76 works, Upside Down, Ikoyi Blindness, No Bread, and Before I jump like a monkey give me some banana, are collage, comic book-esque illustrations defined by anxious colors and protest scenarios that report atrocity with the most casual glance. Though the duo’s cover theme contrasts are subtle, the jump from ladies to calm protest to political comics signifies shifts in Nigeria’s political landscape, and a definative artistic response. But don’t think Lemi’s work stops at Fela’s albums. Beside other covers (including some with darlings in aviators) his recent illustrations like Anoda Sistem (2002) continue to portray Nigeria’s political landscape with wit and humanity. For more check out Lemi’s myspace, it’s worth the trip.