Northwestern Events Calendar


Facing the Music: Play, Social Death and Gendered Survival After Fela Kuti

When: Friday, January 15, 2021
11:00 AM - 12:30 PM CT

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Dina Walters   (847) 491-3171

Group: SOC - Department of Performance Studies

Co-Sponsor: African American Studies Department

Category: Academic, Fine Arts, Lectures & Meetings, Multicultural & Diversity


Please join the Departments of Performance Studies and African American Studies on Friday, January 15th at 11am for Facing the Music: Play, Social Death and Gendered Survival After Fela Kuti, a virtual public lecture with Dotun Ayobade, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University.  Please contact to RSVP and receive the Zoom link.   


The shocking death, in 1997, of acclaimed Nigerian musician/activist Fela Kuti rocked the global art community. That he had died due to AIDS-related complications only added to the questions surrounding his life and legacy. This talk reads the circumstances surrounding this highly mediatized death from the perspectives of Fela’s closest women collaborators, the Queens. Having animated Fela’s music and activism for decades, some of these women found themselves rocked by questions of mortality and belonging at a time of stigma and anxiety around HIV/AIDS. This talk uses Fela’s publicized death, a watershed moment in Nigeria’s public health history, as an entrée into the less considered gendered aftershocks of his monumental life. The talk also considers the flexible uses of performance to hegemonic and beatifying ends at a moment of crisis.


Dotun Ayobade (he, his, him) is an Assistant Professor of Africana Studies/Rites and Reason Theatre at Brown University. His scholarship and teaching are in the areas of late twentieth century dance, performance and popular music in West Africa. Ayobade attends to how, beyond the modalities of writing, West Africans activate aesthetic and everyday social performance to shape their lived realities, forge belonging, and declare being in the African political economy. Ayobade is currently working on the first book-length study of the storied lives of Nigeria’s Afrobeat Queens, an iconic group of women that helped give potency to the activism of famed musician, Fela Kuti. Provisionally entitled The Afrobeat Queens: Gender, Play, and the Making of Fela Kuti’s Music Subculture, this book examines how the Queens fashioned performance strategies to negotiate agency and visibility when confronted with state authoritarianism and social rebuke. The book project is under contract with Indiana University Press.

Ayobade’s writing have appeared in the Journal of African Cultural Studies, in edited book volumes and in other public fora. He has a forthcoming essay “Inventing Moves, Or, How Nigerian Musicians Sculpt the Body Politic” in the Dance Research Journal. Ayobade’s publications underscore his longstanding interest in the uses, forms and trajectories of a multitude of cultural products in Africa and the diaspora.

Ayobade’s research earned him University of Texas at Austin’s Graduate School Named/Endowed Continuing Fellowship (2014-2015) and, more recently, Brown University’s Salomon Faculty Research Award. 

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