Hairstyles, a collection of images featuring close to 1000 different, (and we mean different!) hairstyles showcases the African woman in all her many coiffured incarnations. Shot by the late J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere, the veteran photographer came across these various hair sculptures everywhere; on the streets of Lagos, at special occasions or even at work.
Ojeikere lived and worked in Nigeria and this final body of work was included in the arsenale section of the 55th Venice Biennale d’arte, “Il Palazzo Enciclopedia” curated by Massimiliano Gioni in 2013. Leaving us at the age of 83, Ojeikere’s work legacy is a truly remarkable series celebrating Nigerian customs through formed tresses. Shot impeccably in monochrome, the series depicts hair more as sculpture and a legitimate art form in Nigerian culture.
J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere came to the world in 1930 in Ovbiomu-Emai, a countryside village in South Western Nigeria. By twenty he was already following a path in photography, an uncommon choice of profession in Nigeria. Although cameras were scarce being considered a non-necessity, ‘Okhai Ojeikere bought a modest Brownie D camera sans flash in 1950, and learned the basics of photography from a friend. This would mark a lifelong marriage to the profession.
The series, Hairstyles began nearly a half century ago in 1968 and is one of the largest projects of ‘Okhai Ojeikere as he documented Nigerian hairstyles for decades. This would become a flagship project of Ojeikere’s work as he amassed approximately a thousand pictures of different African women’s hair.
Whether braided, plaited, in buns, or in vertical forms, Ojeikere’s photographs are very eye-catching. They offer an extraordinary look into Nigerian traditions and customs. Captions complement the pictures in a book that also features the images, entitled Photographs, telling us details like who did the hair or for what occasion it was created. Hairstyles is a treasure trove of not just hair as it is worn in Nigeria, but also one-of-a-kind perspective into the present day culture of the country.
See some of the images from Hairstyle here.