The Nigerian Centenary Photography Exhibition
by Ladun Ogidan
Recently on view at leading London-based auction house, Bonhams, is The Nigerian Centenary Photography exhibition, dedicated to celebrated Nigerian photographer, ‘Okhai Ojeikere, who passed on early this year.
Sponsored by the Kola Aluko Foundation (KAF), the photography exhibition charts the developments in photography as an artistic practice in Nigeria over the last 100 years. Ayo Adeyinka, founder and principal consultant at TAFETA, and Dr Charles Gore of the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS), University of London, curated the exhibition, which opened on July 17 and runs till August 1.
The event was well attended by several influential Nigerians including the Minister of Culture and Tourism and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, who praised the exhibition for its usefulness in promoting and protecting Nigeria’s historical and cultural heritage.
Aluko explained that his foundation was set up to identify and nurture young Africans across all disciplines. To underline its commitment, in attendance were twenty aspiring artists, including award-winning British – Nigerian artist and entrepreneur, Sesu Tilley – Gyado, whose donation to the foundation was a highlight of the evening.
The exhibition is divided along nine themes; Amalgamation; Cosmopolitan Styles; Then and Now; Courage and Fire; Life and Water; Urban living, Lagos; Cathedral; Music and Singers; People and Power; and Vessels and Vehicles, and features 32 photographs of the works of eight “vintage” artists including; Alfred F. Carew, J. B. Abimbola, Obafemi Luther, N. W. Holm and 11 “contemporary” photographers such as Adeola Olagunju, Adolphus Opara and Aisha Augie – Kuta.
According to Gore, “The exhibition invites the viewer to consider the ‘now’ and ‘then’ – the similarities and differences in technology, in events, individuals and landscapes, and in the particular ways of seeing that each photographer constructs his or her imagery.”
Also on display is a photograph, Amalgamation Meeting by Carew dated 1914. He owned a studio in Lagos and photographed throughout southern Nigerian, both prior and after the amalgamation from the 1880s to the 1920s. The curators observe, “The image records the inception of Nigeria as a single country from the two prior protectorates, and was taken from the perspective of the expectant crowds, waiting for the news on the amalgamation and who were to become its newfound citizens.”
Of particular mention is a series of photographs by Uche Okpa-Iroha. The works draw their power from the artist’s uncanny ability to impose himself seamlessly into scenes of the Hollywood hit movie, The Godfather. Award-winning photographer, Akintunde Akinleye’s depiction of Lagos firemen is also notable. He freezes moments of decision in the thick of action, confronting a fire. His photographs, “ Present firstly a fireman controlling a fire, and in the subsequent image, cooling off in response to the extremes of heat to which he has been subjected.“
Ojeikere has two of his works on display, Niger House in Marina, Lagos, and Untitled. Giles Peppiatt, Director of African Art at Bonhams, as he speaks glowing about the artist and the describes as successful, this exhibition to commemorate Nigeria’s 100th anniversary, “As our sales of contemporary African art have gained recognition and set new world records for the artists of this huge and vital continent, we have increasingly come to appreciate the work of this groundbreaking artist. The exhibition of his work, and that of those who inherit his mantle, is a fitting tribute to the best tradition of artistic dedication that captures and celebrates the spirit of Nigeria – Africa’s leading economy – in its centenary year.”
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