Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955-1989)
Exhibition Reception & Panel Discussion

Thursday 17 September, 5-7pm

Light Work

Syracuse, NY, USA

Free event

Exhibition repception for Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955-1989). The lecture/panel will start at 6:15pm. Presented and moderated by M. Neelika Jayawardane, and includes guest speakers Remi Onabanjo, Elliot Ross, and Derica Shields.

A solo retrospective of the work of this seminal and highly influential figure in 1980s black British and African contemporary art. Although his career was cut short by his untimely death at the age of 34, Fani-Kayode nonetheless remains one of the most significant names in the history of black photography. 

Curated in collaboration with Mark Sealy and Renée Mussai of Autograph ABP, whose co-founder and first Chair was Rotimi Fani-Kayode, the exhibition features a selection of his most important photographic works produced between 1985-1989, including large-scale color works and arresting black and white images. 

Fani-Kayode’s photographic portraits explore complex personal and politically-engaged notions of desire, spirituality, and cultural dislocation. They depict the black male body as a focal point both to interpret and probe the boundaries of spiritual and erotic fantasy, and of cultural and sexual difference. Ancestral rituals and a provocative, multi-layered symbolism fuse with archetypal motifs from European and African cultures and subcultures, inspired by what Yoruba priests call “the technique of ecstasy.” Hence Fani-Kayode uses the medium of photography not only to question issues of sexuality and homoerotic desire, but also to address themes of diaspora and belonging, and the tensions between his homosexuality and his Yoruba upbringing.

This exhibition coincides with the introduction of new punitive legislation in Nigeria, Fani-Kayode’s country of birth, as well as other countries in Africa in recent years outlawing same-sex marriages and membership of gay rights organizations.

Read more about the exhibition >

Facebook event for the exhibition 
reception & panel discussion >

Part of the exhibition

Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955 - 1989)

18 August - 22 October 2015

Light Work, Syracuse, NY, USA

Read more »

About the speakers

M. Neelika Jayawardane is associate professor of English at the State University of New York-Oswego, and an Honorary Research Associate at the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa (CISA), University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa). She is a senior editor and contributor to the online magazine, Africa is a Country. Jayawardane was born in Sri Lanka, grew up in the Copperbelt Province in Zambia, and completed her university education in the United States. Her academic publications focus on the nexus between South African literature, photography, and the transnational/transhistorical implications of colonialism and apartheid on the body.

Remi Onabanjo is a Nigerian-born curator and art critic. She holds an undergraduate degree from Columbia University, and is pursuing an MPhil in Visual, Material and Museum Anthropology at Oxford University. Raised in South Africa, Tanzania and the USA, she has assisted with exhibitions at the Museum of African Design (Johannesburg, South Africa) and with No Longer Empty (New York City, USA), curated group exhibitions in New York City, and is currently assisting with exhibitions at The Walther Collection and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her research interests are concerned with the photographic archive, the legacies of African art objects in museum collections, and gender and sexuality in contemporary art of Africa and the African diaspora.

Elliot Ross is a PhD candidate in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, and holds graduate degrees from the University of Cambridge and Columbia University. He was Fulbright-Alistair Cooke Scholar for 2010, and his writing on politics, culture and literature has appeared in publications such asThe Guardian, Al Jazeera, The Washington Post, Guernica and The London Review of Books. He is senior editor at Africa is a Country, a web magazine of African political and cultural affairs. Elliot’s current research examines colonial reparations claims and questions of narrative.

Derica Shields is a writer, editor, and film curator from London who lives in New York. Her research interests include black diasporic literature, visual art, film, and futurisms. In 2013, she co-founded The Future Weird, a screening series where she brings together experimental films by black and brown directors with archival clips to curate screenings-cum-visual essays. At London’s 2014 Frieze Art Fair, Derica gave a talk for Rhizome and the ICA on the black woman cyborg in 1990s music videos, an idea which she is currently expanding for Tank Magazine, and Girls Like Us. She is a contributing editor at The New Inquiry and a story editor at Rookie Mag, although her favourite job as an independent researcher for a feature film about black British migrants in 1950s and ’60s London. She holds a degree in English from Cambridge University, and an MA in Africana Studies from Cornell.

Additional Info

Light Work
Kathleen O. Ellis Gallery
316 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, New York 13244

T: +1 315-443-1300