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Naijatreks | The Fela’s Shrine you don’t see!
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The Fela’s Shrine you don’t see!

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We were fifteen; all keen and zealous travel bloggers and photographers, touring the beautiful city of Lagos; and the New Afrika Shrine was our second to the last stop. Believed to be the haven of hemp smokers in Lagos, yet drawing throngs of visitors and fun lovers every other weekend. There’s more to this place than what the public says. This true story, to the world, we must convey…

That day, the noon sun danced along its clear blue skies, trailing us as we snaked from the high-brow Ikoyi area of the city, through the beautiful stretch of 3rd-Mainland bridge, overlooking the intriguingly arty assembly of Makoko’s floating shanties on one side, and an endless sprawl of the resplendent Lagos Lagoon on the other side; and up to the streets of Alausa in Ikeja where the edifice of the New Afrika Shrine reposes.

They call it a shrine, not because gods are worshipped there, or because fetish acts are performed there, but because it is the original home of Afro-beat and where Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, its legendary creator entertained his numerous fans when he was alive.

The shrine stands strong, not too big and not too small- a big hall clad in brown and yellow colours, with patterns of green, red and black, suggesting its proudly-African symbolism. A sculpted muscular human-arm figure with clenched fist sits atop the pedestrian entrance of the compound, beyond and above which the large letterings of the “Afrika Shrine” and a painting of Fela lifting an African shield, stare at visitors from the top of the main building.

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A decently dressed young man met us at the entrance and ushered us in. He blew a pleasant smile as he introduced himself as our tour guide and asked us to follow him. Two big signs welcomed us into the surroundings of the compound. One read “The secret of life is to have no fear” while the other read “A man without the knowledge of where he has been, knows not where he is or where he is going”. We turned to the right to enter the main hall and on the beautifully pattern-painted fence hangs another sign “The events which transpired 5000 years ago or five minutes ago have determined what will happen five minutes from now, five years from now or 5000 years from now, All history is a current event.”  These words struck me with an introspective effect. It reminded me of my origin, the kind of man I ought to be, the kind of man I am presently and the kind of man I dream to be.

I got cut off in mid-thought as we entered the main building and the air began to thump, reverberating to raging drumbeats which exuded from massive audio speakers mounted at different points within the hall. It was one of Fela’s songs. I’ve heard it before, somewhere I can’t remember. Maybe from my dad’s turn table back in the days when I was a kid, or from one of the Fm radio stations sometime over the years. I know the song. It carried the familiar uncommon rhythm of the Afro-beat I know… the throbbing of goat-skinned drums, the bellows of sax and trumpets, the soft metallic infusion of guitar strings and clanging of gongs and cymbals, and the unforgettable fearless voice of Fela Anikulapo himself. Reflexively, everyone of us began to nod to the rhythm of the song. I loved the feeling. It got me tapping my fingers against the lens of my camera.

As we followed our guide down the hall, our heads twisted and turned, and our eyes feasted on the myriad of sights within the large hall. The sitting area is a wide raised central portion of the open building flanked on the sides by partitioned corridors. The hall is set with neatly arranged tables and chairs to cater for the relaxation and refreshment needs of the visitors. I could spot a man at the other end of the sitting area nibbling at a big goat meat from a steaming hot bowl of pepper soup on his table.

Numerous books and ceramic pots stood in shelves along with some paintings and sculpted relief works at one of the partitions on the corridors. It appears to be an information stand for the popular Festac festival. Some meters beside the stand, a group of young men who sat and stood around snooker tables clapped and jumped in excitement as one of the players ported the winning black ball with a deafening shot. It caught my attention, I moved closer and noticed the big sign on the wall behind the snooker tables. It read “United we stand, divided we fall, Africa must unite.” I had heard many stories about Fela Shrine and most of the stories had been linked to dope smoking and prostitution; but the sights around here spoke differently. I saw more of a haven of freedom of expression for the average African man. A place where everyone was equal. A place where one could get inspired and entertained alongside.

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The tour guide stopped just after the snooker tables, in front of a small partition along the side wall of the hall. Both the walls and floors of the partition has been finished with ceramic tiles and beautified with various sculptures of wood and fired clay and a dusty facial sculpture of Fela suspending from a stand at its centre. “Contrary to general opinion, not everyone who come to Afrika Shrine is a dope smoker,” began the tour guide, “…I don’t, as well as many people who work here,” he said and continued as he explained the purpose for which the shrine was established and narrated the life and times of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti highlighting the values he stood and fought for- music, human rights, and fairness in politics and public governance.

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While my tour members were engrossed with the discussion , I got distracted by the various murals on the walls of the hall; and just as I swerved my camera around, snapping photos of the writings and paintings, the door of the rear end of the hall opened and a woman gently stepped in and began to walk towards us. Small strands of grey hair peeping out from within her gracious hair and some small wrinkles at the corner of her eyes hinted a fifty+ years of age, but her carriage and overall appearance suggested a lady in her late 30s. She was garbed in a stylishly sewn and beautifully embroidered blue Adire blouse, matching it with blue head tie worn as a band beneath neatly packed hair which has been woven into big strands, and rocking blue beaded bangles on her wrist and ankles, walking with a confident strut supported by white jean pants and blue pump high-heel shoes. She stopped about two meters away from us, stood firm with her hands clasped at her waist. Our tour guide immediately paused, turned and introduced the who woman who had now started beaming an irresistible and charming smile.”Meet aunty Omoyeni Kuti, Fela’s eldest daughter and first child.” Everyone turned and beamed with surprise. We were stunned. Her elegant yet humble poise was so endearing. She welcomed us and took us round the shrine, showing us the various photos hung along the walls and stairwell of the rear office block and dressing rooms behind the hall. The photos recorded some of the notable shows and events at which Fela played during his lifetime.

 

We were overwhelmed and challenged by the historical account of Fela’s life and values, and extremely amused by his rebellious and unconventional conducts. We left the shrine with a renewed confidence in our African roots, and the white members of our team marvelled at the kind of character Fela was. Aunty ‘Yeni Kuti encouraged us to come for the weekly Friday shows at the shrine. It sure promises to be A-MA-ZING!!

 

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-Two big signs welcomed us into the surroundings of the compound. One read “The secret of life is to have no fear” while the other read “A man without the knowledge of where he has been….”

 fela shrine_naijatreks3

– We turned to the right to enter the main hall and on the beautifully pattern-painted fence hangs another sign “The events which transpired 5000 years ago…”

fela shrine_naijatreks3a – As we followed our guide down the hall, our heads twisted and turned, and our eyes feasted on the myriad of sights within the large hall. The sitting area is a wide raised central portion of the open building flanked on the sides by partitioned corridors…

 fela shrine_naijatreks3b

– Numerous books and ceramic pots stood in shelves along with some paintings and sculpted relief works at one of the partitions on the corridors. It appears to be an information stand for the popular Festac festival…

fela shrine_naijatreks9i

fela shrine_naijatreksc – The raised stage and plaform for the performing musician.

 

fela shrine_naijatreksb–  The tour guide stopped just after the snooker tables, in front of a small partition along the side wall of the hall. Both the walls and floors of the partition has been finished with ceramic tiles and beautified with various sculptures of wood…

 fela shrine_naijatreks5 …as I swerved my camera around, snapping photos of the writings and paintings, the door of the rear end of the hall opened and a woman gently stepped in and began to walk towards us…… She was garbed in a stylishly sewn and beautifully embroidered blue Adire blouse, matching it with blue head tie worn as a band beneath neatly packed hair…

fela shrine_naijatreks4

“Meet aunty Omoyeni Kuti, Fela’s eldest daughter and first child”

 fela shrine_naijatreks6

…Her elegant yet humble poise was so endearing. She welcomed us and took us round the shrine…

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– She showed us a mural of Fela by Lemi Ghariokwu.

fela shrine_naijatreks8

…showing us the various photos hung along the walls and stairwell of the rear office block and dressing rooms behind the hall. The photos recorded some of the notable shows and events at which Fela played during his lifetime…

 

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This article was written by Folarin Kolawole

Founder of Naijatreks, Nigerian-born Folarin Kolawole is a geologist, travel writer and researcher. When not at work, he travels the length and breadth of Nigeria, exploring, taking photos and writing about her numerous hidden tourist potentials.   'Naijatreks' is a product name registered under the Ntreks brand, which is also duly registered by Nigeria's Federal Corporate Affairs Commission. The contents on this blog are re-usable. However, it must be ensured that it is linked back to this blog, and correctly attributed to Naijatreks or the author. Please do not edit, rewrite or commercialize the original works on this blog without direct and written permission from the Founder (Folarin Kolawole). For inquiries and advert placement on the blog, kindly contact us at info@naijatreks.com or naijatreks@gmail.com.

8 comments:

timholtwilson@onetel.com' Tim Holt-WilsonMay 16, 2013 at 6:48 pmReply

“According to the estimation of Africa’s riches every
black man should be a millionaire. Why are we so poor? It’s time to investigate”
– f.a.k.

NaijatreksMay 17, 2013 at 9:21 pmReply

@Tim Holt-Wilson…hmmm…good thought! It is indeed time to investigate. I wonder how much truth that’ll be exposed o.

timholtwilson@onetel.com' Tim Holt-WilsonMay 18, 2013 at 9:11 amReply

Have a listen to ‘I.T.T’ (from the album ‘Black President’, 1981)

hassancortex@yahoo.com' hassan cortexMay 16, 2013 at 11:48 pmReply

thanks for showing us fela’s shrine.. i drive past it a couple of times.. its indeed beautiful.. i love the arts.. i love Africa..

NaijatreksMay 17, 2013 at 9:19 pmReply

@hassan cortex…loll…pls try and make
out time to stop by and take a quick tour of the shrine…you might get
one or two inspirations I tell you.

KA – LA – KU…! KA-LA-KU-TA! You don’t need to love Fela’s Kalakuta Museum! | NaijatreksSeptember 24, 2013 at 7:23 pmReply

[…] The Fela’s Shrine you don’t see! […]

abiooo@yahoo.com' AbiolarJune 28, 2014 at 12:27 pmReply

I always thought it is only hemp smokers who visit this fela shrine o

bpankyes@yahoo.com' Bako PankyesJanuary 29, 2017 at 3:47 pmReply

A great man whose music was able to make government sit up, not the kind of nudity and sex musicians of nowadays that adds no value to humanity.

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