The clothes make the country

Nigeria has produced some of the most enduring music, literature, and artwork of the past 50 years. Think Fela Kuti and his Afrobeat music. Think Chinua Achebe and his bevy of books, including the iconic Things Fall Apart. And think El Anatsui (born in Ghana but a longtime Nigeria resident), whose expansive tapestries are collected by every museum of significance, including the de Young. To this list must be added the photographer J. D. ÔOkhai Ojeikere, who has worked steadily since the 1950s but has only recently been given the serious consideration that is his due. Ojeikere had his first monograph published just 13 years ago. In ÒJ. D. ÔOkhai Ojeikere: Sartorial Moments and the Nearness of Yesterday,Ó at the Museum of the African Diaspora, we see five decades of Nigerian hairstyles and clothing styles Ð mainly of women Ð that say everything about Nigeria and its relationship with Europe and the United States. The earliest images are of a Nigeria newly liberated of BritainÕs colonial grip. Ojeikere captures what seems to be the widespread elation that Nigerians held about their country, with some women wearing traditional African clothing and some wearing outfits straight from a Hollywood magazine. The womenÕs hairstyles of the 1960s and Ô70s Ð including elaborate braids that resemble sculpture Ð bookend the artful hair that Ojeikere documents in more recent images. The photos add up to a vision of Africa that is all-too-often missing from the usual narrative of war, famine, and economic upheaval. There is joie de vivre in these photographs Ð decades of joie de vivre that would have been lost to history without OjeikereÕs watchful eye.


Wednesdays-Sundays. Starts: June 20. Continues through Oct. 13, 2013
 
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