Nigerian-born fine art photographer based in New York, Iké Udé’s solo photography exhibition entitled ‘Nollywood Portraits: A Radical Beauty’ has opened at Alliance Française, Lagos.
The exhibition is showcasing sixty-four enthralling portraits of members of Nigeria’s vibrant movie industry, Nollywood. In the portraits which are full length and captured in uniquely elegantly style, Ude’ orchestrates a histrionic filmic atmosphere of light and colour, whereby the industry’s illustrious veterans, in company with the next generation of emerging talent pose in classically staged shots. Pictographic depiction includes a cross section of industry personalities, such veterans as Olu Jacobs, Sadiq Daba, Richard Mofe-Damijo, Genevieve Nnaji, Stephanie Okereke Linus, Kunle Afolayan and rising stars including Alex Ekubo, Enyinna Nwigwe, Linda Ejiofor, Kehinde Bankole and several others.
The exclusive preview of the exhibition took place on Friday, May 31, 2019. It was attended by art connoisseurs, members of the Nollywood industry and top corporate gurus including Mrs. Bella Adenuga Disu, an Executive Director at Globacom, Sandra Obiago, a renowned Curator and Osahon Akpata, Project Manager of the ‘Nollywood Portraits.’ There were also actors including Sadiq Daba, Ozzy Agu, Uti Nwachukwu and Eku Edewor. The filmmakers were not left out. Mahmood Ali-Balogun, Tope Oshin Ogun and Charles Novia were also in attendance.
Explaining the distinctiveness of his style at the exclusive preview event, Udé revealed that it comes from his background as a painter.
He said, “I was formerly a painter; hence, my photographs employ a painterly language and longer-time process in the making of the pictures.” The “making-ness” of the picture is the definitive word because the portraits that emerge are no longer just pictures showing a moment of time captured by exposed film; they become works of art realized over periods of time.
“The whole exhibition is in colour. There are 64 individual portraits and one grand group portrait of all the subjects which I named, “The School of Nollywood” a reference to and departure from Rafael’s 1509 fresco, The School of Athens which can be seen at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. The painting is of a grandiose architectural framework, depicting prominent philosophers of Greek antiquity, posed in a manner whereby they dominate but do not crowd their environment.”
According to him, Nollywood is the Nigerian and African mirror par excellence. He also expressed his immeasurable admiration for members of the industry because of their industriousness, tenacity, DIY-can-do-attitude, cleverness, confidence and swag.
With these works of portraiture, the artist’s goal is to complement the discourse on the representation of Africans in cinema, from colonial domination and inferior stereotypes to one of intellect and creative agency in telling our own stories.
For him, “The style, the how (composition, form, lighting, colour) and other precious, unquantifiable intangible poetics,” are elements that make a photograph memorable.
Udé said, “I think that emphasis on political or socio-political content of a picture becomes irrelevant once the topical issues of the picture fades or are forgotten with the passage of time. But an exquisitely and imaginatively, well composed picture is invariably timeless in its appeal, regardless of when or where it was made.”
The exhibition will run until Sunday, June 16.