Fela, Ghariokwu Lemi and The Art of the Album Cover, begins the four part inaugural exhibition of the ‘Democrazy’ 3 solo exhibitions and a publication project of the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos in an apt tribute to an uncompromising artist, a creative innovator, and a human rights activist, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Lemi presents over 20 of his highly graphic sardonic album cover art designed for Fela and more recent drawings which continue to engage with social and political issues which affect Nigeria. His garish cartoon-like illustrations for a new generation of musicians such as Eedris AbdulKareem and Daddy Showkey continue the biting criticism of the despondency inflicted on the nation by one insensitive government after another parading under the disguise of democracy.

In April 2007 the elections held were a milestone in the political history of Nigeria. The nation witnessed the successful transition from one democratic government to another. Whilst the electoral process was severely flawed and continues to be challenged, it nonetheless signals the nascent but precarious journey towards democracy. But what do we really understand by this ideology called democracy and what kind of democracy is appropriate within the Nigerian context? Starting from a broad perspective of the notion of Democracy these issues underpin the conceptual framework for the ‘Democrazy’ project.

Three Nigerian contemporary artists Ghariokwu Lemi, Ndidi Dike and George Osodi will explore the abuse and denial of the democratic process through a diversity of themes such as social injustice, bad governance, mental and physical slavery, poverty, environmental degradation using divergent media; illustration, cover art, sculptural installation and photography. The last phase of the project takes the form of a publication encapsulating the thematic framework of the project with critical writing from a multiplicity of perspectives. ‘Democrazy’ – three solo exhibitions and a publication – like Fela’s music is a timeless reminder of the way in which the rights of the common man is abrogated, the mandate of the people denied and the hopes for a better future robbed.

Ghariokwu Lemi is a Graphic/Fine Artist, Cover Designer and Illustrator. He is internationally known for his cover illustrations Afro-Beat musician; Fela Anikulapo Kuti, for whom he created 26 Album Covers. Lemi’s art is rebellious, comical, incorporating social commentary, political cartooning and sometimes graffiti. A pioneer in his field, Lemi was the recipient of the Nigeria Music Awards 1988, Best Sleeve Album designer1989 and Nigerian Fame music award 1992. In July 2003, he participated in “Black President: The Art and The Legacy of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti” at the New Museum, New York. He has exhibited recently in Europe and America and will feature in the publication “Area 2”, 100 emerging graphic artists in the world by Phaidon Press New York in spring 2008.

Installation views Fela, Ghariokwu Lemi and The Art of the Album Cover exhibition at the CCA, Lagos gallery. Photographs ©CCA, Lagos.

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