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Ojeikere in West London’s Tristan Hoare Gallery

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Ojeikere Shangalti

Ojeikere Shangalti

Currently on show at Tristan Hoare Gallery in West London is Nigerian photographer Ojeikere. Born in 1930, Ojeikere’s formative years were spent as a photographer for the Ministry of Education in Lagos and later in the West African Publicity Agency. In 1975 he opened his own studio Foto Ojeikere.

In the late 60’s  Ojeikere began photographing women’s hairstyles, a subject which  continues to fascinate him to this date. He explains “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.”

Ojeikere_Abebe_1975

Ojeikere_Abebe_1975

Certain hairstyles are  purely decorative while others are more ceremonial and have a precise  meaning. Among other things, the style determines specific types of ceremony (such as  marriages or coming of age) as well as the status of the woman   and her family. “Royal families have the exclusive right to their hairstyle,  which cannot be  imitated… it’s a mark of distinction. Their knowledge is transmitted from mother to daughter.” With every portrait Ojeikere notes where the  hairstyle is from,   its meaning, its name and its history.

Ojeikere_Onile Gogoro Or Akaba_1975

Ojeikere_Onile Gogoro Or Akaba_1975

Although there is a  strong documentary quality to the series, preserving an ancient heritage, Ojeikere’s presents the hairstyles as works of art. Often taken from the back,   they are sculptural and abstract, sensitive to the intricacies  of the work and        admiring of the beauty of the design.

Ojeikere’s  work is on show at Tristan Hoare Gallery until 10th   May 2013.

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