Fela Kuti’s plaque unveiled in London

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A plaque to commemorate the life of musician and Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti was unveiled on Friday 20 November 2020 in Greenwich, London where he studied at Trinity College of Music.

African and Caribbean support organisation Nubian Jak Community Trust and Havas London have created The Black Plaque Project, an initiative to commemorate the contributions of black people throughout history.

Timed to launch at the end of Black History Month, the project is a twist on London’s blue plaques, the signs hung around the capital to pay tribute to notable British figures of the past and the buildings in which they lived and worked.

However, only 1.6% of those honoured in that scheme are of African or Caribbean descent.

Nubian Jak and Havas have secured permissions for 30 black plaques and also created an interactive map that will allow people to find the signs and learn about their recipients.

Dr Jak Beula, founder and chief executive of Nubian Jak, helped select the names of the 30 people to be honoured in the scheme.

For the past 16 years, the trust has erected a number of plaques and statues honouring black achievements.

The Black Plaque Project also aims to raise money for Nubian Jak, turn the black plaques blue and make them permanent.

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In addition, there will be a series of podcasts hosted by Beula, featuring luminaries from London’s black community, such as Young Vic artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah, Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy and influencer and blogger Kelechi Okafor.

Beula said: “There are nowhere near enough blue plaques celebrating black achievement and history in Britain, so it is vital this project has a lasting legacy. Partnering with Havas on The Black Plaque Project helps us to raise awareness of this institutional discrimination and puts the pressure on those institutions – it shouldn’t just be us doing this.

“We must ensure these plaques commemorating our common cultural heritage keep going up and stay up – there are so many more stories that need to be told to celebrate our rich, diverse past and to inspire future generations.”

Fela, who died in 1997, found success by blending West African sounds with jazz and funk.

His grandson Made Kuti, who returned to the Trinity College of Unity in recent years to study composition, said Fela originally told his family he was coming to the UK to study medicine but instead took up a place at Trinity Laban.

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Made said that when he arrived at the college he found it “strange that there was nothing to actually commemorate his time there”.

“This feels fulfilling and I’m happy about it,” he added.

Made said his grandfather’s music “touched those beyond what even I expected before I came to London”.

Made said it is a “beautiful initiative”.

“Black art and black culture has been influential for centuries and will continue to be and it is always nice when it is put at the forefront of appreciation in some way,” he said.

“I personally was very excited when I heard about it and I wish I was there in Trinity while it was happening so I could take it in first hand.”

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