363. Johnson Donatus ‘Okhai Ojeikere’

‘Coiffed to Kill’
Lagos, Nigeria, 28th January 2011
Size: 60 × 49.5 cm

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Johnson Donatus Aihumekeokhai Ojeikere was born in 1930 in Ovbiomu-Emai, a rural village in south-western Nigeria, but lived and worked in Ketu. At the age of twenty he pursued a future in photography, which was out of the ordinary for people in Nigeria, especially those in his village. Cameras were not in high demand, and were of low priority as they were considered a luxury. However, ‘Okhai Ojeikere was passionate about photography; in 1950 he bought a modest Brownie D camera without flash, and had a friend teach him the fundamentals of photography. He started out as a darkroom assistant in 1954 at the Ministry of Information in Ibadan. After Nigeria gained its independence in 1960, Ojeikere returned to his first job as a photographer. In 1951 he became a studio photographer under Steve Rhodes, for Television House Ibadan. From 1963 until 1975 Ojeikere worked in publicity at West Africa Publicity in Lagos. In 1967 he joined the Nigerian Arts Council. In 1968 he began one of his largest projects, documenting Nigerian hairstyles. This was the hallmark of Ojeikere’s work. He printed approximately a thousand pictures of different African women’s hair.

A large selection of Ojeikere’s work was included in the Arsenale section of the 55th Venice Biennale. Il Palazzo Enciclopedico was curated by Massimiliano Gioni in 2013. ‘Okhai Ojeikere died on 2nd February 2014, at the age of 83.