Wednesday, 7:33am
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.

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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’.

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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

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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.

gilles peterson in africa Pictures, Images and Photos

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions, back issues and single copies of the latest issue. You can also browse visual samples of recent issues at Eye before You Buy.

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.

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