By Damilola Faustino
For all fans of Fela and his music, October – the artiste’s birth month – is a great time to perform a ritual in his memory: take a tour to the places that carry a whiff of the man who founded Afrobeat. Here’s are places to experience the life and times of Fela.
Most people don’t know where Fela is buried. Tourists who stream into the Kalakuta Museum (Fela’s former home) on Gbemisola Street in Ikeja, are shocked when they step into the compound and see the brown-and-black marble tomb in the front yard. It is not yet a shrine.
A museum dedicated to an entertainer of global repute such as Fela Anikulapo-Kuti would year-round draw hundreds of thousands of visitor. The Kalakuta Museum opened to the public during Felabration 2012, is far from reaching that threshold. Inside the two-storey white building, you’ll see Fela’s room as he left it at his death in August 1997 — shirts, mattress, freezer and all. The tour ends on the terrace bar, fantastic ambience for a hangout. A huge portrait painting of Fela smiles at you.
Right next to the museum, a new structure has sprung up: built entirely of containers, it is planned to serve multiple purposes, one of which is a rehearsal space for Seun Kuti. A section of it will serve as lodging for some of the hotel staff. The catch here is the mural on the front ‘wall’.
The ‘Liberation’ public art was installed and commissioned in October 2017 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Fela’s death and his 79th posthumous birthday. It shows a figure draped in Fela’s trademark shirt and trousers striking the equally familiar Fela salute. Never mind that it has no head or hands; the artist has said his intention was not to create a statue of Fela but a symbolic representation of the values he stood for.
New Afrika Shrine
The next natural stop after the museum is the New Afrika Shrine, a 15-minute drive away in Agidingbi. Open to the public all day and all week, the best times to visit are Thursday evenings (when Femi Kuti rehearses with his band) and Sunday nights (when he has the ‘Sunday Jump’ performances). Both shows are crowd-pulling. On other days, you could chill inside the place, buy a drink, play snooker, watch a football match or revel in some Fela songs.
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