AFRICA AT NOON: Lemi Ghariokwu

October 2, 2019 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
206 Ingraham Hall
1155 Observatory Drive

“A Dynasty of Album Cover Arts”

Lemi Ghariokwu
Visual Artist, Graphic Designer, Illustrator and Songwriter


“My name is Lemi Ghariokwu and I’m a Visual Artist, Graphic Designer, and Illustrator from Lagos, Nigeria. As pioneer professional Album cover designer in Nigeria in 1974 I have over 2,000 album covers to my credit till date. My work is most renown on dozens of original album cover art designs for legendary Nigerian musician and creator of Afrobeat music; Fela Kuti. My presentation is about my career, work process, relationship and collaboration with the musical activist. In Nigeria, everyday life is noted not so much for the abundance of technology or infrastructure but for the fact that things don’t function properly. The country’s political rulers are not satisfying the needs of the people and are interested primarily in enriching themselves. Despite the deplorable state of affairs, the underlying attitude has remained irrepressibly optimistic. A couple of artists have used the tools at their disposal to analyze political developments. Fela Kuti was one major artist; who used his music to challenge the forces of repression and corruption in governance. Making an incursion into the various untouchable aspects of our society; Fela took advantage of the sweet and seductive power of those things that are looked upon as taboo and he invited Nigeria to the debate. He suffered great consequences but never gave up the fight until his death in 1997. My close association and friendship with the maverick were very cordial. I was a collaborator and comrade-in-arms and stand with resoluteness behind his ideal to this day.”


Lemi Ghariokwu is a self-taught Nigerian Visual Artist, Graphic Designer, Illustrator, and Songwriter. He is most renowned for many of his original cover art for Nigerian music legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti. His work involves a variety of styles, often using vibrant colours and individuated typefaces of his own design. This serves a consciously integrated meta-textual function. One would say his art is rebellion, comical, political, even erotic but most of all he is a genius in pictorial narration. Observer Music Magazine (Guardian, UK) called him “King of Covers” in 2004. Ghariokwu’s work has attracted much attention in the West and is the subject of various retrospective exhibitions. He is on Phaidon Press’ list of 100 emerging and influential graphic designers in the world. His painting ‘Anoda Sistem’, created in 2002, is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MOMA). He holds a dual lifetime membership of the museum. Lemi is also a member of Artists Rights Society, New York. He is surely one of Africa’s best-kept secrets. In June 2010 he successfully branded FELA-BUS, a marketing mural-on-wheels for the producers of the hit Broadway musical “FELA!” in New York. He also designed the poster for “FINDING FELA”, a documentary which was premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2014. Ghariokwu is very contemporary and constantly doing avant-garde works. He exhibits and holds workshops around the globe with the aim of leaving a lasting legacy in his own art style branded – ‘Afro Art Beat’!