Kalakuta Museum: Where Fela's Spirit Lives On
The residence of the late great Afrobeat musician, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, continues to stand as a symbol of hope to many Nigerians who are weary of their country’s perennial dysfunction and desperately seeking a turn-around.
The name “Kalakuta Republic” came to Fela when he was imprisoned for “corruption of minors and possession of cannabis.” He was locked up for eleven months in 1974 in a jail called the Kalakuta cell. Upon his release, the revolutionary music icon decided to rename his residence Kalakuta Republic.
Before Fela died on August 3, 1997, his home was frequently visited by fierce Nigerian police and soldiers, and he was arrested numerous times. Abami Eda, as he was popularly called by his adoring fans, represented a thorn in the flesh of Nigerian rulers, especially then military dictator General Olusegun Obasanjo.
Fela was famous for using his music to openly criticize Nigeria’s bad leadership. In scathing interviews and unsparing lyrics he was never afraid to show to the country’s leaders how inept, contemptible and self-serving they were.
In 1977, shortly after the release of one of his hit songs, “Zombie,” about 1000 Nigeria soldiers stormed Kalakuta Republic. The soldiers brutalized anyone they saw in the house. Fela was severely beaten, his mother thrown from an upstairs window in the house, and women in the house were raped.
The house, which contained Fela’s studio, was subsequently burnt down.
After the musician’s death, his children, family and close fans decided to transform his house into a museum where lovers of his songs and ideology can come for remembrance of what Fela stood for during his lifetime.
The legendary musician’s home, one of the most memorable places in the sprawling city of Lagos, now houses an intriguing museum where care has been taken to preserve everything associated with Fela.
Taking a tour of Fela’s erstwhile residence, one can see his musical instruments, clothes (down to his signature small underwear), shoes, and other mementos that symbolized the great musician.
The museum also contains more than 1000 souvenirs left behind by visitors who remain fans of the great musician and human rights activist who died twenty years ago today.
It is not unusual for the visitor to feel a sense that Fela’s spirit hovers still around his former residence turned museum. Indeed, the Kalakuta Republic has become a site of resistance, rebellion, activism and hope for many Nigerians keen to champion freedom in their beleaguered country.
Photos of Fela Kuti at the Kalakuta Museum
Photograph of Fela Kuti on display
Sahara Reporters, New York