Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955 - 1989)
18 August - 22 October 2015
Syracuse, NY, USA
Opening reception: Thursday, September 17, 5-7pm
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.
'…It is photography, therefore - Black, African, homosexual photography - which I must use not just as an instrument, but as a weapon if I am to resist attacks on my integrity and, indeed, my existence on my own terms.'
- Rotimi Fani-Kayode, 1988
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.