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J.D. Okhai Ojeikere

Onile Gogoro of Akaba, HD273/75, 1975. © J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, courtesy Gallery Fifty One.

J.D. Okhai Ojeikere

Agaracha, HD 568/74, 1974. © J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, courtesy Gallery Fifty One.

In documenting over 1,000 different hairstyles of women at work, in the street, or at more formal events like weddings and parties, Nigerian photographer J.D. Okhai Ojeikere solidified himself as legend both at home and internationally. His most well-known collection of images, Hairstyles, is a typographic feat for the ages, a masterpiece of carefully executed portraits of Nigerian women that championed and celebrated their beauty and individuality via their intricate and artistic hairstyles.

The hairstyles depicted are works of art, to say the least. Though most of the styles have names (“Suku/Shuku”, “Koroba”), and some are created with the addition of thread to add the different structural element, they are all sculptural triumphs. They are an extension of individuality and cultural pride, and the manner in which Okhai Ojeikere isolates each hairstyle to photograph them is a clear testament to the honor he found in doing so.

Born in 1930 in western Nigeria, Okhai Ojeikere bought himself a Brownie camera at the age of 20, hoping to learn about the fundamentals of photography. After serving as a darkroom assistant in the 1950s he set out on his own and opened his own studio, “Foto Ojeikere.” Gallery Fifty One, who represented Okhai Ojeikere until the time of his death in February of this year, wrote to us with more information about his path: “In 1967 he became an active member of the Nigeria Arts Council, an organization in charge of organizing a festival of visual and living arts. This was an opportunity for Ojeikere to devote himself to Nigerian culture, to which he is deeply attached.”

J. D. Okhai Ojeikere

Abebe, HD 846/75, 1975. © J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, courtesy Gallery Fifty One.

J.D. Okhai Ojeikere

Atiai, HD 262/70, 1970. © J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, courtesy Gallery Fifty One.

J.D. Okhai Ojeikere

Fro Fro, HD 176/70, 1970. © J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, courtesy Gallery Fifty One.

J.D. Okhai Ojeikere

Mkpuk Eba, HD 694/74, 1974. © J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, courtesy Gallery Fifty One.

J.D. Okhai Ojeikere

Modern Suku, HD 916/75, 1975. © J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, courtesy Gallery Fifty One.

J.D. Okhai Ojeikere

Ife Bronze, HD 232/72, 1972. © J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, courtesy Gallery Fifty One.

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