Amid performances holding in different parts of Lagos, as part of this year’s Felabration, the Lagos State Government is set to honour the late Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.
The weeklong activities marking Fela’s 79th posthumous birthday and the 20th anniversary of his death has also featured lectures and other forms of tributes.
In a statement issued on Thursday by the State’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, the government said the honour was in line with Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s commitment to promoting art and tourism and celebrating iconic figures in politics, economic and culture sectors who have contributed to the image and development of Lagos State.
The statue titled Liberation was produced by Abolore Shobayo.
The governor will also pay a visit to the Kalakuta Museum on Gbemisola Street, Ikeja, where he will join members of the Anikulapo-Kuti family and Fela’s devotees in homage to the music icon. The day will be rounded off with an event tagged, Special Lagos Jump – a musical tribute to the man affectionately called Abami Eda – at the Afrika Shrine in Agidingbi, Ikeja to draw the curtain on the 2017 edition of Felabration.
Ayorinde added, “Fela did not only capture the global audience as a charismatic and energetic musician using Lagos as his base; he was also revered for fighting corruption and oppression even at the risk of imprisonment or death. His creativity, courage, passion and extraordinary ability to rise against the odds are the trademarks of a true Lagosian.”
He added that it was in recognition of Fela’s contributions to cultural development that Fela! The Broadway Musical Concert was staged at the Eko Hotels and Suites in April, 2017 as part of the celebration of Lagos at 50 and Lagos State also supported the London Edition of Felabration during the last Nottinghill Carnival.
The State Government also pointed out that the unveiling of the Fela statue at Allen Roundabout was in keeping with its commitment to promoting public monuments.
Echoing the words of Governor Ambode during the commissioning of the Chief Obafemi Awolowo statue in September, Ayorinde said the state government would continue to recognise the legacies of its heroes past and would continue to encourage artists to be involved in changing the state’s landscape through public art.
He noted, “Fela is a global icon and one of the biggest success stories from Lagos. Monuments are erected across the state to remember the contributions of people like him to preserve their legacies and our history as a people.”
Standing at 25 feet and titled Liberation, the statue is done in fibre glass by Sobayo of Cowrie Studios as “an iconic legacy to celebrate Fela’s unique dress sense and style of salute.”
Interestingly, the unveiling of the Fela statue will hold weeks after the Awolowo statue was unveiled by the governor. The Awo monument generated controversies based on the fact that Awo is made to sit in the work while he also wears laced shoes.
But the artist, Hamza Atta, has also tried to defend his thought process on the making of the work.
A statement by Shobayo, the inspiration for Liberation came from the need to keep alive the essence of what Fela stood for.
He said, “This came about after I carried out an extensive research on Fela for his second solo exhibition, titled Echoes in 2016, where I created over 100 masks of the icon and his mother to immortalise them in my own way.
“Contemporary art allows an artist to present his ideas in his unique representational form and Liberation falls under this category. It is abstract, but it encompasses features to understand the subject matter. The statue represents the iconic pose of Fela while he adorns one of his famous garbs. With it, I seek to explain that anyone can assume Fela’s persona and stand for liberty. Liberation was therefore not created to serve as a statue of the legend, but as a form of respect to all that Fela stood for: his mythology, struggle for freedom, human dignity, social consciousness, values, courage and Pan-Africanism etc.