#Felabration: 9 Fela Landmarks You Should Visit

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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 and, in the process, founded a global movement. But if you can’t make it in October, any time of the year is as good. Here’s a short list to guide your itinerary

The Tomb

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.

Kalakuta Museum

Elsewhere in the world, 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. An entire room on the first floor is dedicated to 30-plus pairs of his colourful shoes; another room holds photocopies of newspaper cuttings and covers of Fela’s turbulent encounters with the authorities in the 1970s. In the same room, one of the walls displays the constitution of Fela’s Movement of the People’s (MoP) party and the typewriter it was typed on. From the ground floor up, you’re treated to dozens of family photographs. If you feel like spending the night, there’s a five-room boutique hotel on the second floor. The tour ends on the terrace bar, fantastic ambience for a hangout. A huge portrait painting of Fela smiles at you.

The Container

This is new. 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’. It is highly Instagram-able.

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. The bar and one or two shops stock Fela memorabilia (T-shirts, CDs and caps, among others items).

‘Liberation’ Statue

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.

Ojuelegba Under-Bridge

One of Fela’s most popular songs was ‘Confusion’, which includes a reference to Ojuelegba, a densely populated part of Lagos (Surulere LGA). As part of its beautification projects, the state government has approved the painting of a Fela mural under one of the bridges. For all it is worth, take a walk around the vicinity, soak in the air, feel the buzz, chaos and “go-slow” and try to imagine what the scene must have been like in the 1970s when Fela released that song.

Empire Hotel building

Kakadu, the first club where Fela used to perform, has long folded – same for a couple of other joints where he performed, years later. The one building that still stands and serves as an architectural link to the long-gone era of 1960s Lagos, when highlife reigned supreme is the Empire Hotel building, right across the road from where the first-ever Kalakuta Republic, Fela’s famed commune, used to be. It is worth strolling into the compound to see where Fela ‘yabbed’ the soldiers that would later storm his house and raze it.

The Kuti Family House and St John’s Anglican Church

are in Abeokuta (Ogun State), so you’ll need to cross inter-state boundaries to get to these ones. The family house has been redeveloped into a museum with its adjoining building serving as a resource centre. Built in the 1950s, Fela returned every now and again to the house and practised his saxophone in a cellar that is now no longer there. Up the road is the Anglican Church where Fela’s father, an educationist and clergyman, presided and where Fela learned to play some instruments as a member of the church choir. If you are keen to go the extra couple of steps,  and you should, the graves of Fela’s parents are right in the churchyard. They were legends in their own rights.

This article was written by Pelu Awofeso and first published on felatoday

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