J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere (1930-2014) documented the social, political and cultural transformations in the course of Nigeria’s transition from a colonial state to an independent republic with great commitment, enthusiasm, and insight. His formal investigations, documentary work and various commercial endeavors captured the unique atmosphere and élan of Nigeria during a period of great ebullience and ambivalence. Practicing since the early 1950’s, Ojeikere is a leading artist of his generation, devoted to the art of image making, the history of his country and the inherent criticality of the photographic medium. Far from being mere documents or records, his archive of thousands of images attest the critical role that photography entails in the history of Nigeria and Africa in terms of visual knowledge and artistic subjectivity.
Occasionally elegiac, but invariably elegant, this exhibition reflects what the artist deems as “moments of beauty,” referring to the ebullience of Nigerian life engendered by independence and decolonisation. This first comprehensive survey of Ojeikere’s work to date marks the beginning of rigorous scholarship and engagement with the artist’s practice spanning more than half of a century. As such Moments of Beauty provides in-depth perspectives to the practice of an artist whose formidable archive has become an important anthropological, ethnographic, and artistic treasure.
Moments of Beauty was exhibited at the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki in 2011 in three thematically organised sections. The first section, New Beginnings, highlights Ojeikere’s engagement with Nigeria’s development as a nation exploring the developments in education at the University of Ibadan, the country’s independence celebrations, images documenting Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Nigerian in 1956, modern architecture, and a collection related to the Western Nigeria Television Station, the first television station in Africa.