Nollywood Portraits: A Radical Beauty, Set to Launch in New York

Nollywood Portraits: A Radical Beauty, Set to Launch in New York

Nollywood Portraits: A Radical Beauty, is a recently completed series by leading contemporary photographer Iké Udé to celebrate the Nigerian film industry, which continues to gain the attention of connoisseurs, collectors, scholars and enthusiasts around the world.

The project consists of three parts; an international touring exhibition (which recently concluded a three-month showing at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago), a documentary (currently in post-production) and a coffee table book (published by Milan-based Skira and recently released in the United States).

Ahead of the book launch at Leila Heller Gallery in New York, on February 22, CNN featured a well-received editorial titled The Evolution of Nollywood in Pictures.

On March 8, another book launch will be hosted by United States distributor Rizzoli. It will feature book signings by Iké Udé while Vanity Fair journalist Amy Fine Collins will also hold an interview with the artist.

The book features portraits of 64 prominent Nigerian film stars and producers including Taiwo Ajayi-Lycett, Richard Mofe-Damijo, Genevieve Nnaji and Uti Nwachukwu. In executing this project, he paid close attention to each figure from the manner that their hands rested to the angle of their bodies to the camera. Each of the celebrities was presented in a timeless, classic style that the artist has adopted. His signature use of bold colours, as well as a mixture of historical poses from ancient Egypt to more contemporary styles is evident in his portraiture. The images also feature elaborate costumes and extensive post-production.

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Udé was originally trained as a painter, and this is clearly visible in the painstaking hours spent in layering the backdrop. Today, a renowned portrait photographer and stylist, he is one of the world’s best-dressed men, a trait that is brought to the fore in the way he put together and arranged the costumes of the subjects of his portraits. Here, he acclaims the growing vibrant culture of Nollywood movies, as well as the amount of progress the industry has made since its inception in the early 90s. A highlight of the exhibition is Udé’s Nollywood School – a group of individuals who collectively define the Nigerian film culture or movement. He spent 2 years (2014 – 2016) carefully seaming together each of the constituent portraits to create a mural in a style reminiscent of Raphael’s masterpiece, The School of Athens.

Udé’s work draws on a historical genre that celebrates popular culture while depicting a future that Nigerians hope for themselves and their film industry.


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