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'Finding Fela' Archives: The Iconic Album Art Of Ghariokwu Lemi

We revisit Ghariokwu Lemi's iconic Fela Kuti album artwork ahead of Finding Fela's theatrical release.

Finding Fela,’ the new Fela Kuti documentary from Academy Award-winning director Alex Gibney, begins its North American theatrical run on August 1st. To celebrate we’ll be finding Fela in our Okayafrica archives with a look back at our favorite Fela-related videos, galleries, remixes, interviews and much more.


Nigerian graphic designer, fine artist and illustrator Ghariokwu Lemi occupies a unique position as the creative genius behind twenty-six of Fela's iconic album covers. Christened 'The Artist' by Kuti himself, the vivid social realism of Lemi's works created between 1974 and 1993 provided a fitting visual accompaniment to the singer's derisive anti-establishment lyrics with its cross of distorted collage, illustration and caricature.

After a chance meeting in 1974 with veteran Nigerian journalist Babatunde Harrison who was friends with Fela, a then-18 year old Ghariokwu was given the opportunity to design his first album cover for the musician. This inaugural assignment, for the authority-bashing Alagbon Close, came after Kuti's mistreatment at the hands of the Nigerian police and depicted a larger-than-life Fela breaking free from the titular jailhouse while defending his Kalakuta Republic from baton-wielding policemen. The whirlwind success of this cover placed the young self-taught artist squarely within the afrobeat legend's inner circle.

Lemi's cartoonish renderings of Kuti's lyrical indictments featured commentary on the social ills plaguing Africans due to media brainwashing and highlighted oppressive policies from corrupt governments. As the foremost visual translator of one of most outspoken musicians the world has seen, Lemi's illustrated sociocultural critiques were as confrontational as the songs they depicted. His pictorial narratives lambasted political greed, police brutality, skin bleaching, lack of basic utilities as well as scathing takedowns of those with political power.

In an interview with Okayafrica last year, Lemi shed some light on one of his most famous sleeve designs — for Fela's Beasts Of No Nation — which featured several world leaders as bloodsucking beasts with fangs and horns adding, "I have never received a negative response to date, 25 years on. I just think the art speaks for itself; one can never run away from the truth." Besides his work with Fela, the highly prolific Lemi has designed over 2000 album covers for a wide range of artists including Bob Marley, Antibalas, E.T. Mensah and Gilles Peterson and has seen his work exhibited all over the world. Watch Lemi discuss his career beginnings in the video below. Click through the gallery above for a sampling of the artist's most famous sleeve designs for Fela Kuti.

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Photo by Kwesi Yanful, courtesy of MIZIZI.

MIZIZI Has Released a Special Edition 'Lion King' Jersey in Collaboration with Disney

The sleek baseball jersey was designed to celebrate the 25th anniversary of "The Lion King."

MIZIZI returns with yet another timely collaboration—this time with Disney to commemorate the 25th anniversary of our childhood classic, The Lion King.

The African streetwear brand says through the jersey's kid sizes, it now has the opportunity to cater to the next generation of viewers of the upcoming live-action remake that's to open in theaters this week. "The Lion King marked many of our childhoods," the brand says in a statement. "Much before we were aware of our identities, it resonated with us."

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Watch the Intense Trailer for 'Don't Let Go,' Starring David Oyelowo

Oyelowo and Storm Reid shine in the new trailer for the upcoming psychological thriller.

David Oyelowo and A Wrinkle In Time star, Storm Reid are on a psychological journey to escape death in the new trailer for their film Don't Let Go.

Both actors give heavy performances, as the film sees Oyelowo taking on the role of a police officer, Jack Radcliff, who has a chance to change the chain of events that led to the murder of his niece Ashley (Storm Reid), and hopefully save her.

The film was written and directed by Jacob Aaron Estes, with the producers of Get Out. Oyelowo himself is also a producer on the film.

Read: In Conversation: Abiola Oke With David Oyelowo

Don't Let Go also stars Brian Tyree Henry, Alfred Molina and Mykelti Williamson, Shinelle Azoroh, Byron Mann, and April Grace. The film, which originally premiered at Sundance under the title Relive, is due out in theaters on August 30.

Back in March, it was announced that Oyelowo is also working on his very own directorial debut The Water Man, which will be executive produced by Oprah Winfrey.

Watch the trailer for Don't Let Go below.

Don't Let Go - Official Trailer (2019) www.youtube.com

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Still taken from music video.

Watch the Music Video for Patoranking's 'Wilmer'

The artist's beautiful visual ode to his daughter will tug at your heartstrings.

Earlier this year, Nigerian artist Patoranking dropped his 12-track sophomore album, Wilmer, which he dedicated to his daughter. The same-titled track, which features French-born Georgian singer and songwriter Bera, sees Patoranking professing his immense love for his daughter.

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