yasmin hernandez welcome



He be say you be colonial man
You don be slave man before
They don release you now
But you never release yourself

"Colonial Mentality"
-Fela Anikulapo Kuti

PURCHASE PRINTS:

(Allow an average of 2-3 weeks for the arrival of prints. Giclee prints are special-ordered and will take around 4 weeks.See buy page for more information on purchasing. )

Bookmarks, $2:


13 x 19" inch print on watercolor paper, $40:


Archival Giclee Print, approx 24"x30":

Size/ Media
 




Fight to Finish
(Like Fela)
Fela Kuti: Soul Rebels series

2005
Acrylic, oils, collage, cowry shells on Masonite
76 " x 19"


Fela Kuti is the epitome of a musician who fused his art with political struggle. Born in 1938 in Nigeria to Yoruba parents, his mother Funmilayo was a leading figure in the nationalist struggle and his father was a protestant minister. As a musician, Fela spent the 50's playing in highlife bands and evolved a form of a music which he called "highlife jazz". By 1968 he was promoting a new musical form of his creation, "Afro-beat". His rebel nature as a musician kept him from entering the American mainstream market. For one, once he recorded a song, he wouldn't play it live again. In addition, some of his songs are up to 30 minutes long, something commercial radio stations don't want to deal with. However he didn't seek fame in the US market. He instead reaped more benefits from his exposure to jazz, funk and soul music and to the Black Liberation struggle in the US (and the Diaspora) and its organizations such as the Black Panther Party. After touring the US, he returned home to continue his Afrobeat music which infused the horns of jazz with West African percussion, layered with political lyrics. Virtually all of his songs spoke out against colonialism in West Africa. Having sung in a pidgin of English and Yoruba, he was able to gain a wider audience, taking his anti-imperialist message across many of the colonies and former colonies of West Africa where the English language had been imposed.

Fela took advantage of every opportunity to push a pan-Africanist ideology and reject Westernization. Although his father was a protestant minister, he followed his traditional Yoruba faith. In his nightclub, The Shrine, he would pause during his performance each night to offer a ceremonial tribute to the Yoruba orishas and to the eggun or warrior ancestors from throughout the African Diaspora. Perhaps his most infamous act of resistance against the imposing western culture was when he married 27 women in a single ceremony. His Kalakuta Republic was essentially a communal autonomous zone where he lived with his wives, dancers, musicians and others. On show nights, over a thousand people would pack The Shrine. There, audiences would receive literature about the latest government injustices and Fela's newest songs would communicate messages of solidarity and resistance. In addition, they would partake in a celebration of West African music, dance, culture and spirituality. In 1979, Fela formalized his stance against oppression by creating his own political party, Movement of the People (MOP). The military regime of Nigeria was not too pleased with Fela's work and influence on the people. When it regained control in 1983, he was arrested as he had been several times throughout his career. In one particular raid on Fela's Kalakuta Republic, 1,000 soldiers pillaged the commune, raping his wives and supporters, and even throwing his mother from a second story window. His mother died as a result of those injuries. Despite such political repression, Fela continued his work until his death in 1997. He recorded an amazing 50 or so albums during his career.

Symbolism in the Painting:
The painting's title "Fight to Finish" is taken from a Fela song of the same name. Towards the end of this song, Fela is singing to the orisha Eshu, the guardian of paths and opener of doors. This same orisha, Eshu or Eleggua grants permission before all Yoruba spiritual ceremonies throughout the Diaspora, like in Santeria and Candomble in Cuba and Brazil respectively. At the start of the Soul Rebels project I had my list of artists but had not yet settled on the concepts for each portrait. This is the one that came to me first. Only after fully completing the Fela portrait did I begin all the others. The Eshu reference in this painting is at the very bottom of the piece where the colors fade to black. On either side there are clusters of 3 cowry shells. Eleggua's colors are red, black and white and his number is three. By incorporating these at the very bottom of the piece, Eshu, opens up the rest of the composition as a tribute to Fela as a powerful ancestor and to the orisha Shango. Shango, the orisha or thunder and fire, fourth king of the Yoruba city of Oyo, dominates the color scheme of this piece. Represented by the color red and the number four, there are four clusters of four cowry shells in the center of the composition, above Fela's head. Also above his head is a Yoruba wooden sculpture, a figure with a double-edged ax on his head, associated with Shango. Above that is the name Anikulapo "He who has death in his pouch" in Yoruba. This is the name that Fela chose for himself. It speaks to immortality and transcendence and is very fitting considering the number of times he had escaped death from violent beatings that Fela survived at the hands of the Nigerian military police. The Yoruba believe that one's fate and soul reside within the head. Within the head is the orisha Ori, our individual souls who travel to the material world in our bodies with a predetermined mission. When one receives a name, that name is thought to be placed on your head, as a crown. Just as in Santeria, initiates have their orisha "crowned" on their heads. In this sense, it is fitting that the center of interest be the area around his head. Here is where the sculptured figure appears, the ornamentation of the cowries and most importantly, Fela's name "Anikulapo". In addition, at the very top of the composition are the faces of four of his wives, another reference to Shango who is associated with masculinity or even macho-ness. Over Fela's heart is an image of his mother, who died from injuries suffered during one of the military raids on Kalakuta Republic.

For more information on Fela visit www.felaproject.net

For a flashback at Fela life's and the power of his music see Bill T. Jones' phenomenal producation Fela, now on Broadway. www.felaonbroadway.com