Fela Kuti, the rabblerousing musical icon who dominated cultural conversations from the seventies to the nineties, left many legacies which remain relevant till this day. From the fertile Afrobeat genre he helped birth to his often-imitated template for unorthodoxy to his extremely successful offspring, his impact is far-reaching. And one of the longest-lasting manifestations of that impact is in the historic monument known as the New Afrika Shrine.
Sometimes referred to as “Fela Shrine”, or just “Shrine”, it is both an attractive spot for tourists and the ideal scene for Lagosians looking to bask in the glow of faith, recreation and culture. It is a sight of indigenous music, fashion, and cuisine: traditional foods like ofada, jollof rice and moimoi are always available.
In many ways, the site is a revival of sorts: Fela was known to make rituals to deities and those long gone, invoking their spirits. (On Saturdays, he would request a moment of silence to the ancestors and gods). Opened three years after his death, it is also a rebirth of the Old Afrika Shrine, or Kalakuta Republic, was burned down in 1977 by a military government offended by his radical music. Most importantly, it is a constant resurrection of Fela’s spirit: the music, the politics, the high-living bohemianism, the ungovernable power of community. The venue is filled with paintings and sculptures of the late Afrobeat pioneer.
It has hosted performances by Femi Kuti, Seun Kuti, Burna Boy, 2Baba, Wizkid, Reekado Banks, Olamide, Wande Coal, Asa, Hugh Masekela, King Sunny Ade, Awilo Logomba and so many others. World leaders are not immune to its allure, either: in July 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron visited the Shrine. Located in Ikeja, the capital city of Lagos State, it currently hosts Felabration, an annual event held in honor of the late Kuti.
Its sentimental value is based on the fact that it is the closest you will ever get to experiencing the adrenaline-rush that powered the vibrancy of Fela’s music, faith and politics, all of which would come to shape society forever.
Kanyinsola Olorunnisola is a journalist, social critic and literary enthusiast. He is the recepient of the 2017 Fisayo Soyombo National Essay Prize, the 2020 Speculative Literary Foundation’s Diverse Writers Grant and the 2020 K&L Prize for African Literature. He is the founder of SprinNG, a platform dedicated to the development of young African writers.