A musical about Nigerian Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and his wives, who were known as the ‘Kalakuta Queens,’ is taking South Africa by storm.
The play titled “Fela and the Kalakuta Queens” chronicles Fela’s life as a musician, government critic, and his relationship with his numerous wives, whom he referred to as “queens.”
The musical differs from other accounts of the late legend’s life by focusing extensively on the 27 women he got married to on the same day in 1978.
Directed by Nigeria’s theater impresario, Bolanle Austen-Peters, it explores topical issues such as gender-based violence, greed, and poor governance.
It was received warmly in South Africa where it has been described as the “best of African artistic expression,” according to Sibongiseni Mkhize, CEO of South African State Theater.
“The production marks an important phase in the South African State Theater’s journey to become a truly pan-African theatre and a home of hard-hitting and thought-provoking large scale African musicals,” he said.
After showing for several weeks in Lagos last year, the musical went on the road to South Africa’s State Theater in Pretoria.
The musical which is the first ever Nigerian production to play in South Africa began its run on March 27 and ended April 7.
“The reception has been phenomenal, and as a strong advocate of us Africans telling our own stories, this is a step in the right direction,” said Austen-Peters.
“Kudos to the South African State theater for this initiative. The experience has been surreal.”
Fela was an outspoken critic of several military regimes in Nigeria and was often arrested for his troubles. He died in 1997 aged 58.
Aubrey Sekhabi, the Artistic Director of South African State Theater, says showing Fela’s musical is part of the theater’s efforts to become the home for African productions.
“As South Africans, we can learn from other African countries, for an example, look at the issue of corruption that Fela fought against back in the day, it is now happening here,” Sekhabi said.