10 June 2009
Design, music and lyrics
Afrobeat and the art of Lemi Ghariokwu at Rich Mix
LP sleeve designer Storm Thorgerson once said that he based his covers on his clients’ lyrics. Nigerian designer Ghariokwu Lemi takes a similar approach in his celebrated covers for Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti.
The collaged or illustrative designs for Yellow Fever, Upside Down and Sorrow, Tears & Blood (back cover, top) respond to Fela’s songs, which deal with significant issues: education, electricity, democracy, skin-bleaching. Lemi’s cartoon for ‘Mister Follow Follow’ on the back cover of Zombie shows a blindfolded Mr Afrika failing to catch up the ‘Colonial Master’ as he leaps over treacherous gorges.
‘Art’s Own Kind’, an exhibition of Lemi’s cover art was launched at London’s Rich Mix last night, with a speech by Lemi, and live music by Tony Allen (more of whom in a later post). The exhibition moves to Birmingham later this year.
As well as some more recent examples of Lemi’s original artwork, including Gilles Peterson in Africa, the show is full of enlarged reproductions of famous covers, with lengthy captions that explain their genesis. Yellow Fever, (above) for example, ‘speaks in graphic terms about the bleaching of skin by Africans’. Upside Down (below) ‘chronicles the ills of a developing society … illustrated by the lack of functional systems … and the negative effects of religious dogmatism’, summed up by the central image of Mr Africa ‘helplessly hanging upside down’.
Art's Own Kind - Afrobeat and the Art of Lemi Ghariokwu
> Mon 6 July, Rich Mix, London
TODAY Wed 10 June: Q&A with Lemi Ghariokwu and guests, 1pm, FREE
Above: Zombie, 1976. ‘I try to avoid literally transposing what the lyrics say,’ writes Lemi in his long caption, explaining that destiny guided his hand in finding the three pictures for this powerful collaged LP cover.
Below: Gilles Peterson in Africa, 2005.
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