George Osodi: Nigerian Monarchs

Art & Culture

As part of the Bermondsey Project, a not-for-profit exhibition arts space, situated in Londons newest artistic hotspot; 5 streets away from the famous White Cube, and 5 minutes from Tate Modern, photographer George Osodi is exhibiting his series of works ‘Nigerian Monarchs: Custodians of peace and Cultural Heritage’. 

One of the largest and most important countries in Africa, Nigeria is rich in traditions and customs and the series, depicting ancient customs, beautiful finery and, of course, the Nigerian monarchs themselves, will take us into the inner circle of many of these tribes through the persona of their king.

These fantastic formal portraits, in full regalia, are accompanied by brief biographies and historical notes on the tribe and the rituals and history associated with each ruler. This series of works will introduce you to a way of life rarely glimpsed.

Ahead of the show, we managed to get some words from Osodi about what inspired him to shoot such a project:

Photography to me is a language with which I like to express my visual creativity and bring to light issues that need to been seen for posterity and for change. I realise that photography has maintained a very important presence in African culture over the last 200 years, with African images widely celebrated and produced mostly by Western and European photographers. I belong to a generation of African photographers who, against all odds, want to represent Africa from my perspective without being too pathological, even though Africa has its own problems like other parts of the world. I have always seen Africa as a zone of hope and future with the diverse cultures that are bound together. 

Photographing the Nigeria Monarchs project came with its challenges, as the majority of these kings live in their various kingdoms, which require that I travel to adverse areas to locate them. Firstly, I have to travel to these Kingdoms to drop a letter requesting for the permission of the King to have his photograph taken, after which I am invited to come back in two or three weeks time for the photo-shoot as sometimes some of the Monarchs are not interested in the project. So I persevere.

Nigeria Monarchs has been the most intense project I have ever embarked upon to date, due to the regular travels and also the concerns of security of travelling around with my camera equipment. The unique thing about this project is the fact that for the first time I have shot only with a medium format digital camera as opposed to my regular way of working with a Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera. This meant that I had to work at a very slow pace throughout even though in most cases the Monarchs gave me very little of 
their time for the doing the photography.

I wanted the Kings project to show the richness of the Kings in their elegance 
and fashions, which are diverse, changing from one kingdom to another.

‘Nigerian Monarchs: Custodians of peace and Cultural Heritage’ opens on the 11th October and can be found at the Bermondsey Project. For more information you can make the jump over to their site