Saturday 18 February 2023

AMIAF 2023: Ghariokwu to expand over 40 yrs art-afrobeat tradition

Lemi Ghariokwu.

REGARDED as the first visual arts event with focus and theme on the trajectory of Afrobeat music genre, the 2023 edition of ArtMiabo International Art Festival (AMIAF) is featuring creative professionals across diverse fields of The Arts.

With 'Artofafrobeats' as its theme, the second edition of AMIAF holds from April 27-May l, 2023, at Ebonylife Place Victoria Island Lagos. Led by founder, Miabo Enyadike, AMIAF, in just two years, the festival has shown great depth in adding extra energies to art event of yearly magnitude. 

As an event of visual arts contents, AMIAF, in its 2023 edition is articulating fine art's significance to Afrobeats with the inclusion of painter, Lemi Ghariokwu. As an artist, Ghariokwu is one of the most iconic names in the history of the Afrobeat genre. Ghariokwu had the rare privilege of creating, in fine art, over 20 album designs for late Afrobeat founder, Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

The AMIAF 2023 event, which will be curated by Yusuf Durodola features Ghariokwu as the only guest fine artist of the festival, who brings both visual and historical contents into the one-week-long show. Over 20 visual artists from Africa and Europe as well as other creative professionals such as historian, Ed Keazor and Babatunde Banjoko – among others with rich background of behind-the-scene in the Afrobeat music genre – are joining Ghariokwu at the scheduled AMIAF 2023.

Based on the link between his art and Afrobeat music, Ghariokwu, in specific terms explained the role of fine art in Afrobeat music. "Fine art played the role of packaging the brand in Fela's music," he stated during a recent chat ahead of AMIAF 2023. Ghariokwu disclosed that Fela loved art so much that he used a couple of artists for his album designs. However, Fela's love for art, Ghariokwu recalled, was more energised when the late Afrobeats legend met him. "When I joined the movement, I became the game changer. My art graphically illustrated the message and ideology inherent in Fela's music. We became collaborators, and the art became a supplement to the music. That has become a tradition."

After the demise of Fela, the link between fine art and Afrobeat expanded in the works of Ghariokwu. In 2023, Lemi's art was the star of a 34 international contemporary artists group exhibition themed Black President: The Art and Legacy of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, at Museum of Contemporary Art, New York. Interestingly, 20 years after, Ghariokwu is also showing at another Afrobeat-focused festival, AMIAF 2023.

Is the place of fine art the same in the post-Fela era or Afrobeats generation? "In the post-Fela era or Afrobeats generation, the place of fine art is not the same," Ghariokwu noted. "Music packaging has changed because of advancements in technology. Cover designs are now plainly simple and digital. With music streaming, musicians and fans are hardly thinking about fine art. Priority is more on video production to market the music." 

However, for AMIAF 2023, the Lemi brand keeps pulsating in fine art-afrobeats link. "The Lemi Ghariokwu brand is pushing and expanding the fine art-afrobeats link by upholding the legacy. Lemi is still designing album covers for afrobeat bands and some afrobeats acts and staying true to the heritage of the genre."

Ghariokwu holds the prestigious honour of  membership of Museum of Modern Art (MOA), New York. Among many exhibitions by Lemi, came what he called Afro Art Beat in the solo titled Po-Lemi-Cs, shown in 2014, at Red Door Gallery, Victoria Island.

Ghariokwu had his debut solo art show titled Welkom 2 Lay-ghus, curated by Paschal Lettelier, in 2001, at Mason de France, Ikoyi, Lagos. His first illustration for Fela was on the album titled Roforofo Fight. From 1974-1992, Ghariokwu did 26 album cover illustrations for Fela. Among such illustrations were for albums titled Big Blind Country, Monkey Banana, Equalization of Trousers & Pant, Johnny Just Drop, Ikoyi Blindness and Sorrow Tears and Blood.

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