“I must identify myself with Africa. Then I will have an identity” - Fela Kuti
Fela Anikulapo Kuti is a well-renowned Nigerian musician who skyrocketed to fame in the ’70s. He is the father of Afro music, a genre rich in African culture, rhythm and sound. He was born into a Christian family but later turned to traditional Yoruba belief systems. His father was a prominent teacher and the head of the Teachers Union, whilst his mother was a prominent activist. Fela was sent to the UK to study law but decided to study music instead. He is known as a freedom fighter, politician, human rights activist and multi-talented musician. His music still significantly influences African music today, most notably in Burna Boy’s music.
His first spot was in Afro Spot in Alagomeji Yaba in the 70s. The military government often invaded it due to its resistance against military rule and its abuse of fundamental human rights. He then moved to Empire Hotel in Mushin, which was burnt to the ground in 1977. That was the first official Afrika Shrine. The second Afrika Shrine by Fela was located at Pepple Street in Ikeja, but the owners took over the building after the lease expired. The current shrine, which is currently managed by the first son of Fela, known as Femi Kuti, was built after the death of Fela and it was unveiled on October 2000. It’s an open-air music and entertainment centre built to honour Fela Shrine. It also hosts the yearly Felabration; a yearly music festival in honour of Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
Why I went
I’ll be sincere, I’ve known Fela Kuti to be a Nigerian musical and political legend, but I was never well versed in his music. The only song I have on my Apple Music is ‘Lady’. Nonetheless, I had the approach of enjoying my country like a tourist, and the shrine is always mentioned on tourist sites as one of the top places to visit in Lagos. So, in March 2021, my cousin and I decided to go. It was both our first times there.
I didn’t know what to expect. I had no idea what the shrine was. I heard there was lot’s of weed, and I heard there were performances – I did not know what to imagine. Well, the weed aspect turned out to be true. Before you even enter, over 25 guys are trying to sell you weed-related paraphernalia or weed itself. I remember hearing the words “loud”, “colorado”, and “cally kush”? You did not need to pay to enter. There are people selling jewellery, t-shirts, weed paraphernalia, and more on your right when you enter. I would carry cash on you because the chances are you will see something you will like, if not for yourself, certainly for someone you know. Then once you get past that and walk further inside, this is what you see on your left:
It was a Sunday, and we entered the shrine around 6.15 pm, so many people were there watching football. A man hijacked my cousin and me as we walked in and volunteered (forced) himself upon us as a tour guide and Fela historian. He said he was the leading dancer and usually performs on Sunday, but because of C19, performances were off for now. As you walk along the right, opposite the people seen in the video above, you see a physical shrine and various artwork:
So, at this point. I just wanted to get away from this man in our ear, and my team, Manchester United, was playing, so we were looking for somewhere to sit down. So, I bought my first ever Orijin, and it was delicious (probably because it was the canned one and not the Bitters bottle). After some time, we ordered some food. She ordered catfish pepper soup, and I ordered one of my favourite dishes in the world, Isi Ewu. The guy that brought my food said I really should use my hands, which I tried to resist at first, but then I YOLO’d it and ate two bowls with my hands. Up until today, I still dream about that dish. My cousin also cleared her catfish pepper soup – look at the before and afters:
All in all, the shrine seems to be a chill spot to me. I think a medium-sized group of weed smokers who like good food are best suited to go. Things may be a little more lively after Corona restrictions are gone, but the food was undoubtedly the highlight for me. If I lived in Ikeja, I would buy it every week. No joke. Anyways, I’ll leave you with these wise words I saw whilst walking out: