Photography was was an exotic luxury. In 1950, he bought a modest Brownie D camera, and a neighbor taught him the rudiments of photography. In 1951 he began to seek work from the Ministry of Information in Ibadan, repeatedly sending the same letter: “I would be very grateful if you would use me for any kind of work in your photographic department.” His persistence paid off in 1954, when he was offered a position as a darkroom assistant. Just as Nigeria was shedding colonial rule in 1961, he became a still photographer for Televison House Ibadan, a division of the Western Nigerian Broadcasting Services, the first television station in Africa. Jazz musician Steve Rhodes was director of programming and Ojeikere has recalled, the spirit of the time: “Just after independence, we were full of ideas and energy. We were going to conquer the world.” In 1963 he moved to Lagos to work for West Africa Publicity. In 1967 he joined the Nigerian Arts Council, and during their festival of the following year he began to take series of photographs dedicated to Nigerian culture. This body of work, now consisting of thousands of images, has become a unique anthropological, ethnographic, and documentary national treasure. Most African photographers of his generation only worked on commission; this project, unique of its kind, flourished without any commercial support.

The Hairstyle series, which consists of close to a thousand photographs, is the largest and the most thorough segment of Ojeikere’s archive. “To watch a ‘hair artist’ going through his precise gestures, like an artist making a sculpture, is fascinating. Hairstyles are an art form,” Ojeikere has commented. He photographs hairstyles every day in the street, in offices, at parties. He records each subject systematically: from the rear, sometimes in profile, and occasionally head on. Those from the rear are almost abstract and best reveal the sculptural aspect of the hairstyles. For Ojeikere, this is a never ending project as hairstyles evolve with fashion: “All these hairstyles are ephemeral. I want my photographs to be noteworthy traces of them. I always wanted to record moments of beauty, moments of knowledge. Art is life. Without art, life would be frozen.”

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS

2002
Hairstyles
Wedge Gallery
Toronto - Canada

2001
J.D'Okhai Ojeikere
MAMCO.
Geneva, Switzerland.

2001
J.D'Okhai Ojeikere
Cartier Fondation for Contemporary Art.
Paris, France.

2000
Nigerian Traditional Hairstyles
Goethe-Institut Lagos.
Lagos, Nigeria.

1996
J.D'Okhai Ojeikere
Goethe-Institut Lagos.
Lagos, Nigeria.

1995
J.D'Okhai Ojeikere
National Arts Council.
Lagos, Nigeria.

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2005
Arts of Africa
Grimaldi Forum
Monaco - France

2005
African Art Now : Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection
Museum of Fine Art Houston
Houston - USA

2004
Je m’installe aux abattoirs
La collection d’art contemporain d’agnès b.
Les Abattoirs
Toulouse - France

2004
Joy of Life
Malick Sidibé and Ojeikere,
Two Photographers from Africa
Hara Museum
Tokyo - Japan

2003-2004
Parures de tête
Musée Dapper
Paris - France

2003
Fables de l’identité
Œuvres photographiques et vidéos de la collection NSM Vie/ABN AMRO
CNP, Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild
Paris - France

2001
Century City : art and culture in the modern metropolis
Tate Modern
London – Great Britain

2000
Noorderlicht 2000 photofestival,
Fries Museum
Leeuwarden, Netherland.

2000
La Beauté
Palais des Papes
Avignon, France.

1995
Nigerian Contemporary Art
World International Property Art, WIPO headquarters.
Geneva, Switzerland.

1983
" Ten top Photographers "
National Museum.
Lagos, Nigeria.

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

2005
African Art Now: Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection
Exhibition catalogue. Published by Merrell.

2003
Parures de tête : Hairstyles and headdresses
Exhibition catalogue. Editions Dapper.

2001
Century City : art and culture in the modern metropolis
Exhibition catalogue. Tate Modern. Editions Tate. Pg 56.

2000
J. D Okhai Ojeikere Photographies
Exhibition catalogue
Edition André Magnin
Publication Cartier Fondation for Contemporary Art.
Book in French or English.

2000
La Beauté
Exhibition catalogue. p.108-109.
Palais des Papes. Avignon, France.

2000
Africa Inside
J. D Ojeikere p.73-78, English.
Edited by Noorderlicht.

1996
Nigerian Traditional Hairstyles
Exhibition catalogue
Goethe-Institut, Lagos.