The Newark Museum will present an exhibition of 40 large-scale portraits from a new series by acclaimed Nigerian photographer George Osodi. Royals and Regalia: Inside the Palaces of Nigeria’s Monarchs will open February 25 and run through August 9, 2015.
Exhibited for the first time in the United States, the lush color photographs feature the leaders of modern-day monarchies throughout the country. “The images provide audiences with a rare and intimate look inside Nigeria’s palaces and throne rooms, capturing the personalities of the rulers, the splendor of their dress, and the details of their settings,” said Christa Clarke, Ph.D., the Museum’s Senior Curator of the Arts of Global Africa, who organized the exhibition. The near life-size photographs will be shown along with select examples of prestige dress and regalia from the Museum’s internationally renowned collections.
“The idea behind this project is to travel around this diverse country and go beyond the portraits to explore the subjects’ environments – being the custodians of our cultural heritage and peace makers – exploring their architecture and fashion with the view to showcase and celebrate them and to mirror the country’s great culture through their personalities,” the artist Osodi said.
Osodi’s work intervenes in a long tradition of photographic portraiture in Africa, a history largely shaped by foreigners at a time when kingdoms were being subjugated by colonial powers. “I want to document Africa from an African perspective,” he said. His aim is to capture the ways that the monarchs position themselves as living symbols of cultural heritage in the globalized world of the 21st century.
The monarchs are presented in their full pomp and splendor, dressed in richly embroidered robes, sumptuous brocades, and vibrant printed textiles and wearing elaborate beaded headgear, jewelry and other regalia. They are posed inside lavish interior rooms, on thrones set on palace grounds, and even behind the wheel of a luxury convertible. Osodi’s aesthetic sensitivity to his subjects in apparent in the formal compositions of the photographs, which reflect the artist’s interest in the “Golden Age” of European royal portrait painting yet capture present-day realities.
Select works from the series were originally presented in an exhibition curated by Ziggi Golding at Bermondsey Project, London, in 2013.