Afrobeat: The Way She Moves – Framing the Black Female Body in Nigerian Performances

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By: Nayo Sasaki-Picou; Master’s Candidate, Social and Cultural Analysis; Recipient of the Africa House/CTED Development Impact Fellowship

We often imagine the artist Fela Anikulapo-Kuti as the sole hero and motivator of the Afrobeat movement. Currently, his legacy is carried on by his sons Femi Anikulapo-Kuti and Seun Kuti, but untold are the stories of the women who equally maintain the legacy of the artist. The women who have offered diverse facets of creativity to what we know today to be the Kuti legacy. This research has lead me to create a photo series that illuminates the role of women within the Afrobeat movement - on stage and beyond. Through an examination of the fashion, movement and politics of the women in Fela’s band and interviews with the current women of Femi Kuti’s band, I explore the way women have consciously territorialized space and driven the Afrobeat movement to what it embodies today. In particular, I focus on the voice of Fela’s first child Yeni Anikulapo-Kuti, who continues to be a foundational part of her family’s career.

Finally, I look at the ways women have been displaced in the visual narrative of representations of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and the origins of Afrobeat. My work intends to share the female story of Afrobeat through the narrative voice of women, who are equal parts of the foundation of the Kuti movement.