The revival of interest in FELA ANIKULAPO KUTI has immortalized the musician as a global pop culture icon. In fact, Fela’s personal life was just as fascinating as his AfroBeat music.
Fela just didn’t give a damn. He lived his life.
In 1978, Fela married 27 women in a ceremony to recognize the one-year anniversary of the attack on his Kalakuta Republic compound by the Nigerian military. Many of Fela’s new wives were his Africa ’70 bandmates – dancers, singers and composers – who lived and traveled with him. After the wedding, the group honeymooned in Ghana. (SIDE NOTE: 1978 is the same year Fela was banned from Ghana for being “liable to cause a breach of the peace.” The order was issued to Fela because youth fans confronted police at an Accra concert when “Zombie” began to play.)
Fela called his wives “Queens” explaining that these “women have special powers to see the future – to see front and back. Important people always have them around…they advise me what to do” (Music is a Weapon, 1982). After serving a 27-month jail term on a trumped-up charge for currency smuggling in 1986, Fela divorced his remaining 12 wives musing that “marriage brings jealousy and selfishness…no man has the right to own a woman’s vagina.”
Meanwhile Fela’s ex-wives have been quiet as kept about life in Kalakuta Republic. What speaks volumes, however, is the undeniable style, spirit swag and fierce personality these women had each in a distinct way.
AfroPop nostalgia in full effect. Check out these fresh photos of Fela’s Queens: