Every Fela Is Welcome in Cork
3rd Aug 2020
Next time you are sauntering down South Mall, you might ask yourself, ‘why in the name of Father Mathew, Bernie Murphy and Holy Saint Jackie Lennox would the People’s Republic of Cork be pasting the head of some African feen on a big metal box next to the 206 bus stop in the heart of Rebel Cork?’
It’s the latest of our ‘Welcome to Cork’ traffic box art installations and a collaboration with artist Tom Doig and we’ve been delighted with the huge, positive reaction to it.
If you’ve never heard the name, don’t fret. Nigerian musican Fela Kuti wouldn’t exactly be a household name in Ballyvolane or Ballydehob. The number of Kuti’s who have lined out for Cork at intercounty level would probably the same as the number of Barry-Murphy’s who have lined out for the Nigerian national football team, but those who ‘know their choons’ will have heard his name and his great music at some point.
Despite being unknown to the average Rebel, he clearly has some serious Cork fans, judging by the lovely comments and messages we’ve received. Maybe it’s a bit like the recognition handball fans when the Sunday Game does the annual thirty-second feature about their favourite sport!
Being front and centre on the South Mall box, might suggest that the motivation behind the piece was simply an homage to one of west Africa’s most famous sons. He is after all, considered a pioneer of Afrobeat music, was outspoken about the effects of colonial rule on his country and the corruption that followed when the British left in 1960. It is in a sense, but it’s also much more than that.
Over the last few years, the many ‘Welcome To Cork’ boxes we’ve created with artists have taken a recognisable figure or feature from a country and ‘Corkified’ it.
From Italian opera singer Luciano Pavorotti singing The Boys of Fairhill on Merchant’s Quay and Roy Keane riding a Spanish bull on Patrick’s Quay to an Indian ‘Durga’ Goddess holding a hurley in each of its many hands on College Road or a ‘Sultans of Ping Meets Karl Marx’ box on Grand Parade to welcome our German friends.
We believe that Cork shouldn’t just welcome people in a way that is equal to the standard Irish welcome. We think we should be head and shoulders above everyone else in the welcome league table – not just because Corkonians are sound, but because it’s also in Cork’s best interest to do so.
To those who choose (correctly) to move to Cork, we’re saying, we’re really interested in you, where you’re from and what you can bring to the Cork table to help the Rebel County become even greater than it already is.
A Cork welcome, should be a declaration that we are willing to adopt you into our family for however long you’ll be here and that we really want you to love being here. And if you have anything to contribute to Cork to make it even better then we want to make sure we help you get it out of you in whatever way we can.
We’ll treat you like one of our own, but you’ll be held to the same high standards as the rest of the Cork family too.
No pressure, now like, but the last Cork hurling captain to lift the Liam McCarthy Cup for Cork didn’t set foot in Ireland until he was 11 and he did his entire Hogan Stand speech in Irish. Many Corkonians even genuflect automatically when they hear the words ‘Séan Óg’.
The most promising Cork soccer player, Adam Idah, is the son of a Nigerian immigrant and plays for Norwich City. Former Munster and Ireland rugby star Simon Zebo’s dad is from French Martinque.
World champion rower Sanita Puspure was born in Latvia, but claims medals for Ireland like Pat Horgan taps over points for The Glen. Takashi Miyazaki set up a Michelin star restaurant in Cork and his work is being lauded from Timoleague to Tokyo.
If the people who move here from other states, be it from Nenagh or Nigeria, and their offspring, feel fully welcome and that they have a major part to play in Cork life, then they are far more likely to reach their full potential and bring glory on the People’s Republic.
The welcome we put out to visitors and those moving here should be a uniquely Cork one - heavily flecked with our humour, our culture and the things we hold dear. But, for a welcome to fully achieve its aims it must also acknowledge what is important to those who come here: their heroes, their language, their country’s colours (and in time, their opinion on whether you should play Damien Cahalane full back or centre back when he’s hurling).
That’s the way Cork will win the welcome league and reap all the huge benefits that come with it.
There’s little or nothing we can do to improve people’s lives in Minneapolis, but we have a big say in how things go in Mayfield, Midleton and Mallow. If every ‘Fela’ (and beour, of course) feels welcome in Cork then we have everything to gain.