BUKI AKIB: Go Big or Go Home

FELA KUTI IN LONDON, 1989

Nigerian fashion designer Buki Akib knows how to get your attention and keep it. Her latest collections – FELA and Wives – is just what it sounds like. Enter the wonderful, magical world of Akib’s head as she cuts and tweaks life in The Shrine + Kalakuta Republic into luxurious fabrics and a hypnotic chorus of color. Akib is a master storyteller, spinning webs of waterfall patterns, heavy bold lines, and cool geometric motifs with interwoven yarn into handbags and men’s clothing.

Akib’s eye-catching designs caused a “reading” to go down between folks on our FB page last week testing the elasticity between artistic license and historical accuracy. The question was posed, Would Fela actually wear Akib’s collection? The argument pointed out that the sheer bulk of Akib’s work would not be ideal in a tropical climate and as Fela got older he eschewed western dress in favor of little to no clothing.

But who knows? Let the dialogue rip. Peep Buki Akib’s inspired designs below and how she describes her conceptual process for the Fela 2011 and Wives S/S 2012 collections:

NAIJA IN THE BLDG: “The FELA collection is ‘Quintessentially Nigerian’ which constitutes beautiful bright shiny colours, heavy texture and outlandish silhouettes which represents true Africanism.”

AFROPOP NOSTALGIA: “The way Fela’s music spoke to me with such authority and excitement is the way I want my collection to speak to people.”

THE GENTLEMEN BAG (2012)

THE GENTLEMEN BAG (2012)

INSPIRATION: “There is no other way to capture the essence of Lagos but through this collection – the classic fixtures of colonial houses engaging with the hustle of Lagos city life, to the vibrant juxtaposed markets scattered on top of each other. Growing up in the city was an introduction to fashion itself.”

HEATWAVE: “A mixture of colours such as orange cotton and purple silk yarns with dusty bronze lurex were an obvious palette as a back drop of the heat and sweat of the Lagos music scene.”

LOOKBOOK: “unconventional and luxurious fabrics…bold high waisted trousers, extravagant knitted swimming trunks and virile trousers”

WIVES COLLECTION S/S 2012

27 QUEENS: “My fascination on Fela’s wives grew into an admiration of their lustrous world inside the shrine. I interpret their beauty and sexuality as a form of empowerment.”

FELA FEMINISM: “There was more to Fela then just having 27 wives; he gave them a sense of identity in a society that made them invisible.”

THE WIVES COLLECTION:A world of queens, sirens and seductive silhouettes. A celebration of female sensuality and identity.”

There Were 27: Fela’s Queen Science

FELA KUTI + THE QUEENS

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: