Ojeikere, J.D. 'Okhai


Nigerian, 1930–2014


Shortly after Nigeria gained its independence from Britain in 1960, J. D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere began a remarkable self-assigned project: to record systematically key elements of his native Nigerian culture during the experience of postcolonial cultural transition. In 1968, without any specific anthropological or scholarly agenda, he initiated an immense effort to document Nigerian women’s hairstyles. Across the next forty years, he compiled over 1,000 photographs of braided, twisted, and wrapped hair, with each sculptural expression referencing a particular component of Nigerian life—from its various ethnic groups to the expanding shapes of the Lagos skyline. Formally similar, these highly detailed photographs are generally shot close up, centered from behind, and exposed against a stark white or black background, emphasizing the intricacy and architectural fantasy of the elaborate hair designs. "Hairstyles are an art form," Ojeikere has said. "[But] all these hairstyles are ephemeral. I want my photographs to be noteworthy traces of them. I always wanted to record moments of beauty, moments of knowledge."

Artworks by Ojeikere, J.D. 'Okhai

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