J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere

1930–2014, Nigeria

Mkpuk Eba, 1975
Photographic print
60x50cm (paper)

Image courtesy Yossi Milo gallery, United States 

“Beginning in the 1950s, Ojeikere produced an impressive portfolio of two thousand negatives documenting the ways women styled their hair into monumental headdresses. His formal vocabulary is  defined by a lack of backdrops or props, elegant female sitters, elaborate coiffures, soft lighting, immaculate black-and-white printing. In Ojeikere's hands, photography became a means to record the transient creativity that articulated Nigerian social and cultural life.

“He has amassed thousands of images, which together form an anthropological and ethnographic record that is considered to be a national treasure. With his keen eye for composition and attention to detail, Ojeikere finds art everywhere, as he describes: “I always wanted to record moments of beauty, moments of knowledge. Art is life.” This approach fuels his ongoing “Hairstyles” project (begun 1968), an internationally celebrated visual taxonomy of the hairstyles and headdresses worn by Nigerian women, captured at close range, often from behind. For Ojeikere, these hairstyles—from scalp-hugging braids to stunning sculptural forms—are ephemeral works of art, a notion that his photographs clearly affirm,” writes Giulia Paoletti, in a tribute to the artist for the Met Museum.