J.D Okhai Ojeikere captures the elaborately sculpted hair of female African models in meticulous detail through beautifully composed black and white photography. Ben Harriott is driven to explore and celebrate the cultural richness of minority communities in Britain, and to create a platform for their documentation and representation.
J.D Okhai Ojeikere
Hairstyles and Headdresses
New Art Exchange, Nottingham, presents Nigerian photographer J.D Okhai Ojeikere's prolific collection of ornate hairstyles and headdresses. The elaborately sculpted hair of female African models is captured in meticulous detail through beautifully composed black and white photography. The series simultaneously celebrates hairstyling as a transient artwork and forms an extensive visual archive reflecting Nigerian cultural traditions.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest 20th century African photographers, Ojeikere earned international acclaim through his Hairstyle series; a personal project begun in 1968, which grew to encompass 1,000 photographs spanning 40 years. In recognition of the recently deceased artist, this Hayward Touring exhibition from Southbank Centre is the first UK exhibition of the renowned artist's work.
Ojeikere elevates hair design from fashion to a fine art form through celebrating their intricate patterns, sculptural qualities, and abstraction. In contrast to the variety of complex hairstyles represented, Ojeikere's photography uses a consistent and understated visual language. In these literally back-to-front portraits, softly-lit hairstyles occupy the majority of the composition without distraction from props or backdrops.
The hairstyles Ojeikere presents range from being purely decorative to symbols with precise meanings. Some designs are paraded on social occasions or celebrations such as weddings or birthdays, whilst other styles are worn casually on a regular basis. Hairstyles can be reflective of social status and royalty may have unique family hairstyles passed down through generations. To Ojeikere, the hairstyles celebrate uniqueness and reflect the diversity of cultural traditions within Nigeria.
There are hundreds of ethnic groups in Nigeria, each with its own language, traditions and as many different hairstyles... The hairstyles are never exactly the same; each one has its own beauty... Some styles sometimes need more than a week of work.
To preserve the rich heritage, Ojeikere labels each photograph with the hairstyles place of origin, meaning, name and its history. This archival approach relates to the artists photojournalism background, and the Hairstyle series can be viewed against the backdrop of immense social and cultural change following post-colonisation Nigeria.
Ojeireke's work is held in a variety of public and private collections, including the Tate (London), Getty Museum (Los Angeles), Foundation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain (Paris), Musée du Quai Branly (Paris), Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain (Geneva), National Arts Council (Lagos), Guggenheim Museum (Bilbao), Collection Agnes b. (Paris), Jean Pigozzi Colletcion (Geneva), Smithosian Institution (Washington) as well as the Walther Collection (New York). This collection was presented in the International Pavilion in the Venice Biennale 2013.
Exhibition conceived in collaboration with Galerie MAGNIN-A, Paris.
Pop-up hair salon (ground floor)
Ben Harriott is driven to explore and celebrate the cultural richness of minority communities in Britain, and to create a platform for their documentation and representation. Through the lens of his camera, he seeks to reveal the unseen and little-known.
For this research-based commission, Harriott has spent time in the West Indian barbershops of the Hyson Green and Radford Road areas of Nottingham. Looking beyond the service of cutting hair, Harriott will explore the alternative functions of the all-male, West Indian barbershop to reveal the complexity of these environments and to understand the role they play in shaping the lives of those that frequent them.
Image credit: J.D. 'Okhai Ojeikere, Abebe, 1975, Gelatin silver print, © J.D. 'Okhai Ojeikere, Courtesy Galerie MAGNIN-A, Paris.
Launch event: 26 September 2014, 6PM - 9PM
New Art Exchange
39-41 Gregory Boulevard - Nottingham NG7 6BE, Uk
Gallery Opening Times
Tuesday to Friday: 10:30–18:00
Closed On Bank Holidays