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Nollywood Portraits: Radical beauty through Ude’s lens



Nollywood Portraits: Radical beauty through Ude’s lens

It was a gathering of arts connoisseurs, corporate gurus, Nollywood stars, filmmakers, as Nollywood Portraits, a solo photography exhibition by New York based, Nigerian born fine art photographer, Ike Ude opened at Alliance Française at Mike Adenuga Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos. The exhibition will run until Sunday 16 June.

The exclusive preview of the exhibition was attended by art connoisseurs, members of the Nollywood industry and top corporate gurus including Mrs. Bella Adenuga Disu, an Executive Director at Globacom, Sandra Obiago, a renowned Curator, Osahon Akpata, Project Manager of the Nollywood Portraits, Actors Sadiq Daba, Ozzy Agu, Uti Nwachukwu and Eku Edewor.

There were also several filmmakers including Mahmood Ali-Balogun, Tope Oshin Ogun and Charles Novia.

Titled ‘Nollywood Portraits: A Radical Beauty’, the exhibition is showcasing 64 enthralling portraits of members of Nigeria’s vibrant movie industry, Nollywood. In the portraits which are full length and captured in uniquely elegantly style, Ude’ orchestrates a histrionic filmic atmosphere of light and colour, whereby the industry’s illustrious veterans, in company with the next generation of emerging talent pose in classically staged shots. Pictographic depiction includes a cross section of industry personalities, such veterans as Olu Jacobs, Sadiq Daba, Richard Mofe-Damijo, Genevieve Nnaji, Stephanie Okereke Linus, Kunle Afolayan and rising stars including Alexx Ekubo, Enyinna Nwigwe, Linda Ejiofor, Kehinde Bankole and several others.

Explaining the uniqueness of his style at the exclusive preview event, Ude revealed that it comes from his background as a painter.

“I was formerly a painter; hence, my photographs employ a painterly language and longer-time process in the making of the pictures. The ‘making-ness” of the picture is the definitive word because the portraits that emerge are no longer just pictures showing a moment of time captured by exposed film; they become works of art realized   over periods of time.

“The whole exhibition is in colour. There are 64 individual portraits and one grand group portrait of all the subjects which I named ‘The School of Nollywood’ a reference to and departure from Rafael’s 1509 fresco, The School of Athens which can be seen at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. The painting is of a grandiose architectural framework, depicting prominent philosophers of Greek antiquity, posed in a manner whereby they dominate but do not crowd their environment,” he said.


Ude described Nollywood as the Nigerian and African mirror par excellence while also revealing his immeasurable admiration for members of the industry because of their industriousness, tenacity, DIY-can-do-attitude, cleverness, confidence, swag, etc.


With these works of portraiture, Udé seeks to complement the discourse on the representation of Africans in cinema, from colonial domination and inferior stereotypes to one of intellect and creative agency in telling our own stories.


Speaking on what makes a photograph memorable, Ude said: “The style, the how (composition, form, lighting, colour) and other precious, unquantifiable intangible poetics. I think that emphasis on political or socio-political content of a picture becomes irrelevant once the topical issues of the picture fades or are forgotten with the passage of time. But an exquisitely and imaginatively, well composed picture is invariably timeless in its appeal, regardless of when or where it was made”.


Udé is an aesthete, writer and founder of the seminal art fashion print magazine aRUDE, 1995-2009. In addition to the accompanying coffee table book, Nollywood Portraits: A Radical Beauty published by Skira in 2016, he is also the author of Style Files: The World’s Most Elegantly Dressed, published by Harper Collins in 2008 and Beyond Decorum published by M.I.T Press in 2000. Vanity Fair included him in the magazine’s International Best Dressed List in 20092012 and 2015.

He has been described as a master portraitist along with Vincent van Gogh, Rembrandt van Rijn and Andy Warhol and has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions and has been reviewed in a number of publications including Art in America, The New Yorker, Art Daily, L’UOMO Vogue, Flash Art, and The New York Times. His articles on fashion and art have been published in magazines and newspapers worldwide.

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