In celebration of Afrobeat maestro, Fela Anikulakpo Kuti whose 79th posthumous birthday was on Sunday 15th October, the annual Felabration reached its climax yesterday.
The Felabration festival was conceptualized to remember the iconic musician and political activist. It is a weeklong series of events that includes workshops and concerts.
Twenty years after his death, Fela is still a hero to millions for his contributions on stage and off it. As the creator of Afrobeat, social critic, political activist and champion of the underprivileged as well as a philosopher of his own political ideology, Fela’s influence has continued to spread.
Every year Felabration attracts over hundred artistes-both locally and internationally- and the 2017 edition was no different as Nigerian musicians showed up en mass to pay homage to the legend.
This year’s celebration was a special edition as it marked the 20th year anniversary of Fela’s demise, and the Lagos State government commemorated the legend by erecting ‘The Liberation’ a statue of Fela at Allen Roundabout, Ikeja, Lagos.
The effigy sees Fela standing tall with both arms raised above his shoulders, strangely without a head. The conspicuous absence of Fela’s head in the art work has caused some concerned followers to raise questions – some insinuating that the absence of the head is disrespectful.
Responding on behalf of the family, Fela’s daughter and social commentator, Yeni Kuti has justified the design of the monument, saying it was the expression of how the artist felt about the late legend.
She said: ‘Before people on social media will start to say the Fela has no head or it has no hand and so on, it is art and before you abuse us, let me answer quickly. It is art. How an artist feels is how he feels because if he had put a head and the head did not look like Fela, everybody will say the head did not look like Fela so now you cannot abuse the head because it is not even there.’
The visual artist who designed the effigy, Abolore Sobayo said the work was an expression of how he feels about the late Afrobeat legend, saying that it was designed to generate discussion about the emancipation of the people. While justifying the fact that the art work had no head, Sobayo said the design came out of extensive research on what Fela represented through his music, and how to use same to correct some of the things he complained about years ago that are still happening.
‘For me as an artist, art transcends beyond beauty or aesthetics. For me, art should generate discuss; art should ask question and art should provoke our thoughts. For me, the creation of the Liberation Statue is to represent the essence of Fela by using his costume. For me, I believe that this should serve as a conscious to our subconscious that twenty years after Fela’s demise, most of the things he talked about are still happening. For me, this work should come to us not just as a beautiful work, but it should come to us as something that will ginger us to look at the positivity in our lives; positivity in the values of his music; for us to start to emancipate our people positively. Going forward, I have been able to use symbolism as a medium to represent Fela through his costume and to represent his essence,’ Sobayo said.
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