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Rotimi Fani-Kayode

Updated: Jan 19, 2019

Artist 30 Rotimi Fani-Kayode Photography

Oluwarotimi (Rotimi) Adebiyi Wahab Fani-Kayode was a Nigerian-born photographer, who moved to England at the age of 12 to escape the Nigerian Civil War. He explored the tensions created by sexuality, race and culture through stylised portraits and compositions.

Fani-Kayode work deals with diaspora and his identity was shaped from his sense of otherness and it was celebrated.

In his work, the subjects are specifically black men, but he often asserts himself in his work, which can be interpreted as a performative and visual representation of his personal history.

Using the body as the centralised point in his photography, he was able to explore the relationship between erotic fantasy and his ancestral spiritual values. His complex experience of dislocation, fragmentation, rejection, and separation all shaped his work.

Fani-Kayode explored sexuality, racism, colonialism and the tensions and conflicts between his homosexuality and his Yoruba upbringing through a series of images in both colour and black and white.

His relationship with the Yoruba religion began with his parents. With this legacy he set out on the quest to fuse desire, ritual and the black male body.

His goal was to communicate with the audience's unconscious mind and to combine Yoruba and Western ideals. This practice of fusing aesthetic and religious eroticism compelled the viewer visually and provocatively.

His homoerotic influences in using the black male body can be interpreted as an expression of idealisation, of desire and being desired, and self-consciousness in response to the black body being reduced to a spectacle.

Not only is Fani-Kayode praised for his conceptual imagery of Africanness and queerness (and African queerness), he is also praised for his ability to fuse racial and sexual politics with religious eroticism and beauty.

I love the sensitivity and delicacy of the artworks and how they reflect a fragile beauty. The warmth in his colour setting highlights the model’s skin and shows how beautiful melanin filled skin is. Exploring your identity and finding a way to fit into the world you live in is an important challenge for an artist and representation is vital

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