50 Years of African Photography

50 Years of African Photography

Owing to the instructions issued by the British Government on Monday 23 March, the sale of Modern & Contemporary Art that was scheduled to take place on 24 March will now take the form of an online sale, running from 27 to 31 March. Details of how to bid online are available here.

T he upcoming auction of Modern & Contemporary African Art Online in part illuminates the past 50 years of African photography. In a rapidly changing continent, the medium, celebrated for its immediacy and fastidiousness, proves to be the perfect companion for artists working on the continent. It has been expertly employed in documenting post-colonial life, its banality, fashions and architecture with an unflinching artistic flair.

Journey through a curated history of African photography with rare glimpses into the studios of forerunners including J.D. 'Okhai Ojeikere, Seydou Keïta, Malick Sidibé and Samuel Fosso, as well as documentary and social realism of David Goldblatt, Guy Tillim, Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou and Pieter Hugo – all displaying a mastery of composition and distinct subject matter.

Seydou Keïta, Untitled 1957-1958

Seydou Keïta is best known for his highly composed studio photographs of Malian Society in the years leading up to and after its independence. The present work depicts a reclining woman, a common position used by women when entertaining in West Africa. Keïta strived for perfection in each portrayal of his subjects, illuminating to the audience their personality and essence.

J.D. 'Okhai Ojeikere, 1975, Modern Suku, Hairstyles Series


Regarded as one of the fathers of photography in West Africa, J.D. 'Okhai Ojeikere in his lifetime sought to document both the burgeoning social and cultural life in Nigeria, as well as artforms passed on through the generations. Modern Suku, Hairstyles Series, is one of two thousand negatives dedicated by the artist to the artform of hairdressing.

Malick Sidibé, 1976, Combat des Amis avec Pierre

Known for his rich black and white images, Malick Sidibé played a huge role in elevating the stature of photography in West Africa. His work are historical documents of a revitalized Mali soon after the end of French colonial rule, as well as youth culture aptly exemplified in the present work.

Samuel Fosso, 1997, La Femme libérée américaine dans les années

A survivor of the Biafran War (1967-1970), Samuel Fosso began creating intimate self-portraits in the 1970’s, challenging established architypes and stereotypes of the African Male. The present lot is a distinct embodiment of such ideas, disguising himself as a chic and liberated working woman.

Guy Tillim, 2002, Mai Mai Militia In Training Near Beni

Guy Tillim is one of the most prolific photographers currently working on the continent and is known for his reportage-style, and documentation of conflict torn regions in sub-Saharan Africa. Mai Mai Militia in training depicts child soldiers from rebel factions and speaks volumes of the catastrophic and inhumane effect on civilian life during the five-year war which displaced over two million people in eastern Congo in the early 2000s.

David Goldblatt, 2006, The Sheriff Knocking/Conditions Apply, Oudtshoorn, Western Cape

Regarded as the father of South African photography, David Goldblatt’s oeuvre provide the viewer with an insight into life in South Africa during and post-apartheid.

Pieter Hugo, 2010, Abdulai Yahaya, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana, Permanent Error Series

Referred to as Sodom and Gomorrah by the locals, Agbogbloshie is an area within Accra, Ghana where electronic waste from developed nations are exported. Although superficially a beautiful portrait of Abdulai Yahaya, the series, Permanent Error, is a critique on global obsession with consumption and disregard for the environment and human life.

Leonce Raphael Agbodjélou, 2012, Untitled Triptych, Demoiselles De Porto Novo Series

A firm student of photography, Leonce Raphael Agbodjélou carries on the tradition of his father’s photographic practice. His photographs are imbued with art-historical references, particularly Picasso and serves as a poignant reminder of the role played by Port-Novo in its slave trade with Brazil.

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