Who Killed The Radio Star?
Who Killed the Radio Star is a lifestyle collaborative exhibition of vintage radios by Chuka Ihonor, with photography by Ete Ayida, and fashion by Bisola Edun and Irene Ogede. Held recently at MILIKI, Lagos, the exhibition formed part of the fringe events of the 2017 Open House Lagos, marking the ‘Lagos at 50’ celebrations.
What inspired your vintage radio collection and why did you decide to exhibit as part of the Open House Lagos Fringe events?
I have always loved well-designed radios. Technology can be presented quite beautifully and this is not beauty for its own sake but rather where technology and its visual manifestation (knobs, dials, aerials and so on) transcend function to become attractive. My father enjoyed owning electronics and still does at 87. He owned two of the items on display; the 1977 Sanyo IC-8800 radio-cassette and the 1975 JVC-Nivico 3100-R ‘Capsule’ TV-Radio. I like to collect old stuff, preferably designed items. I collect 1980’s Japanese clutch pencils from the label ixi:z and Polaroid Instamatic. I see them as a mark of a time in our existence much the same way an anthropologist works. I also collect Nigerian art. Open House Lagos 2017 was our second outing. It was tougher than last year’s to get things done. We decided to add on what we termed ‘Fringe Events’ that would allow us hold events outside of the core ‘building tours’. Remember we held an opening symposium last year. I wanted an event that would be exciting but in some way related to the home and architecture. About a year ago, Ete Ayida who runs Creative Flair NG, asked me to document my radios through photographs. She studied anthropology at University College London (UCL) but is also a photographer and documentarian. So, I spent the following year procrastinating about ferrying my radios to her studio in Victoria Island. When it dawned on me that I would love to have the radios exhibited (as a Fringe Event of Open House Lagos 2017), I asked her to take photographs, including themed ones.
Some of the radios in different spaces photographed by Ete Ayida and team
What inspired the collaboration with a photographer, model, fashion and graphic designers?
Following from my initial conversations with Ete Ayida, I added a fashion angle to the photographs since some of the radios were modeled on ladies’ handbags and even as a bangle. I called top designer Bisola Edun of TAE Afrika to lend us two outfits and asked a friend Irene Ogede, as well as my IT lady who looked like a fashion model and unknown to me, ran her own fashion label Renko, to be our cover girl. Needless to say, Irene also came along with one of her designs. We had a fun shoot and the resulting pictures were displayed at the exhibition. Most will be seen in a book I am publishing. Creative Flair also designed the posters we used to create awareness about the show and is presently assisting me with the design of my related book.
Irene Ogede in a Tae Afrika outfits modelling with the radios worn as a bangle and another as a handbag
Why did you choose the theme Who Killed the Radio Star?
The latest radio in the show is a Sanyo from 1977. At about that time, well-designed vintage radios were no longer in abundance and the design was no longer as exciting. Also, Bang & Olufsen’s Beolit radios were no longer in high demand. In addition, television had begun to take over from the radio. In 1979, not surprisingly, The Buggles, a group from the United Kingdom recorded a hit song titled Video Killed the Radio Star. My chosen title refers to this song in a direct and cheeky way.
Do you intend to sell these radios, will you also extend the exhibition to other spaces later in the year or will the collection be permanently displayed somewhere?
I still have about 2 years to get my collection close to what I imagine it to be. I want to set up a museum/gallery. I had never before thought of exhibiting them the way I just did. But I see now that it was a good idea. Yes, I do not mind it moving to another venue or town for more people to see. However, there were no sponsors for this first show. Subsequent ones will have to be sponsored. I do not intend to sell the radios; some are so rare, they could take 15 years to replace if sold or lost.
Are all the radios functional and did you achieve your aim with the inaugural exhibition?
All the radios work. Some better than the others and some temperamental as they are old. The earliest dates back to 1960. The exhibition scored at many levels – youths marveling at objects they never really lived with, as well as the older generation recalling their youth spent with similar or same radios. Many saw photo opportunities. For some, it was fun while others adopted a more academic approach. I think the narrative has been delivered and one will continue to measure reactions.
Chuka Ihonor wearing one of the radios for a guest at the exhibition
Guests at the opening of the exhibition
Of the 33 radios in this show, which are your favourite and why? Also, which 3 were of cutting edge designs at their time of production?
In 1968, Bang & Olufsen produced the Beolit 1000. Slim and minimalist in design, it had great properties for its time. It also won the International Forum Design Award (IF Design) that year and was immediately added to the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. The Grundig Satellit 6000 and the subsequent improved model, the 6001, have been described as the most advanced radios of their time in circa 1969. They were also terribly expensive and are among my favourites as are the Beolit 800 of 1965 and the Beolit 600 of 1964. I am partial to the Delmonico Nivico FA-6000 of 1965, even though I love the entire collection almost equally.
Do you think they have inspired future designs?
Bang & Olufsen have in 2013 looked to their past in the recent design of their Beolit 12 and Beolit 15. Referencing handbags with leather straps, they refer to the Beolit 600 of 1964.
An old Bang & Olufsen design radio and a new Bang & Olufsen speaker
April 08, 2021