Rotimi Fani-Kayode

12 February - 18 June 2014

Iziko South African National Gallery

Cape Town, South Africa

Past exhibition

Autograph ABP to present the first major Rotimi Fani-Kayode museum retrospective in Africa

Rotimi Fani-Kayode’s photographs constitute a profound narrative of sexual and cultural difference, seminal in their deeply personal and political exploration of diaspora, desire and spirituality. In his large-scale colour and black and white portraits, the black male body becomes the focal point of a photographic enquiry: ancestral memories 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’.

A founding member and first Chair of Autograph ABP, Fani-Kayode died in 1989. 'On three counts I am an outsider: in matters of sexuality, in terms of geographical and cultural dislocation; and in the sense of not having become the sort of respectably married professional my parents might have hoped for', Fani-Kayode famously wrote. 'Such a position gives me the feeling of having very little to lose'. (Traces of Ecstasy, 1987).

Acclaim for Rotimi Fani-Kayode

Fani-Kayode maps out notions of sexuality through the black queer body with gestural and ritual poses. Tearing into the tensions of representing sexual, cultural, and racial difference, the artist activates photography as a political tool to speak critically about marginalized issues of sexuality, spirituality, diaspora, and death in his society

Jackson Davidow, The Archive, Issue 42

There is, however, nothing essentially reactive in Fani-Kayode’s art. It is imaginatively theatrical, inventively erotic and a radical, positive departure from the photographic images of Africans...That he accomplished this in a career of barely six years is both the joy of his art and the sadness of it.

Holland Cotter, New York Times

Throughout Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955-1989), the audience is struck by similarly evocative and potent images that present an individual crashing against and through boundaries created by his circumstances...a moving meditation of one man’s interpretation of what it means to be displaced.

Mark A Fusunyan, Harvard Crimson

On three counts I am an outsider: in matters of sexuality, in terms of geographical and cultural dislocation; and in the sense of not having become the sort of respectably married professional my parents might have hoped for', Fani-Kayode famously wrote. 'Such a position gives me the feeling of having very little to lose'.

Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Traces of Ecstasy, 1987.

What the press says

There’s an incredible sense of both empowerment and vulnerability present in these black-and-white photographs, taken by Rotimi Fani-Kayode, that explores the complexities of sexuality and hypersexuality, eroticism, intimacy, agency - or lack of, tradition and race - all highly critical aspects that form part of the experiences of many black gay men.

Dynamic Africa

Rotimi Fani-Kayode’s photographic exhibition speaks volumes of how images that are over 25 years old can offer an exact dialogue of what is happening in the world today.

Marie Claire

Spiritual and homosexual, the photographs of Rotimi Fani-Kayode have allowed us to re-evaluate what constitutes black African male sexuality

The Culture Trip

If our politicians in South Africa won’t stand up and say anything, then let the writers and artists speak, even the dead ones.

This is Africa

It seems fitting that, at a time of rising intolerance and persecution of homosexuals in Africa, including Nigeria, Iziko Museums of SA and Autograph ABP are hosting the continent’s first retrospective museum exhibition of Nigerian-born Rotimi Fani-Kayode’s photography.

Penny Haw, Business Day Live

Now some of [Rotimi Fani Kayode's] images, interrogating black male sexuality and colonialism, can be viewed for the first time on African soil...the exhibition is particularly pertinent in light of recent homophobic incidents in African countries.

Biénne Huisman, City Press

Nigerian-born photographer Rotimi Fani-Kayode was a groundbreaking figure of the 1980s whose work is permanently exhibited at museums in London, New York, Helsinki and Sydney. It has, however, taken 25 years for the first gallery in Africa to showcase his thought-provoking work

One Small Seed

Visitor Comments

Another great Autograph ABP exhibition


In partnership with

Iziko South African National Art Gallery

South Africa's premier art museum houses outstanding collections of South African, African, British, French, Dutch and Flemish art.


Curated by

Renée Mussai

As Curator and Head of Archive at Autograph ABP, Renée Mussai oversees the Archive and Research Centre’s programmes. She is currently a PhD candidate in Art History at UCL.

Mark Sealy

Mark Sealy MBE is the Director of Autograph ABP. He is currently a PhD candidate at Durham University, his research focuses on photography and cultural violence.

About the Rotimi Fani-Kayode archive

Autograph ABP has, since 1992, preserved and promoted the photographic legacy of its co-founder and first Chair, Rotimi Fani-Kayode.

Entrusted with this task by Fani-Kayode’s partner and collaborator, Alex Hirst, we have carried out a sustained programme of work to ensure wider appreciation of one of the leading artists of his generation. The cataloguing, digitising and preservation of Fani-Kayode prints, negatives, transparencies and related ephemera is an ongoing and long-term task at the core of the Archive development.

As a not-for-profit organisation where any funds earned are reinvested to further our charitable objectives, any income from licensing reproduction rights or selling modern prints is being used to enhance the preservation of Fani-Kayode’s and Hirst’s images within Autograph ABP’s collection.

Press contact

For further information, please contact Lois Olmstead at Autograph ABP - phone +44 (0)20 7720 92200  or email lois@autograph-abp.co.uk.

Additional Info

Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955 - 1989) was first exhibited at Rivington Place, London, 27 May - 30 July 2011.

  • Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Sonponnoi , 1987
  • Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Black Friar, 1989
  • Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Nothing to Lose VIII, 1989
  • Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Every Moment Counts (Ecstatic Antibodies), 1989