Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955-1989)

Light Work, Syracuse, NY, United States
18 Aug 2015 - 22 Oct 2015

Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955-1989)

Four Twins, 1985 — Courtesy of Autograph ABP, London

« 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… » (Rotimi Fani-Kayode)

Tiwani Contemporary, in partnership with Autograph ABP, presents Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955-1989), a solo retrospective of the work of this seminal and highly influential figure in 1980s black British and African contemporary art. Although his career was cut short by his untimely death at the age of 34, Fani-Kayode nonetheless remains one of the most significant names in the history of black photography.

Curated by Mark Sealy and Renée Mussai of Autograph ABP, whose co-founder and first Chair was Rotimi Fani-Kayode, the exhibition marks the 25th anniversary of the photographer’s death. It will feature a selection of his most important photographic works produced between 1985 and 1989, including large-scale colour works and arresting black and white images.

Fani-Kayode’s photographic portraits explore complex personal and politically-engaged notions of desire, spirituality and cultural dislocation. They depict the black male body as a focal point both to interpret and probe the boundaries of spiritual and erotic fantasy, and of cultural and sexual difference. Ancestral rituals 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 ». Hence Fani-Kayode uses the medium of photography not only to question issues of sexuality and homoerotic desire, but also to address themes of diaspora and belonging, and the tensions between his homosexuality and his Yoruba upbringing. This exhibition coincides with the introduction in 2014 of new punitive legislation in Nigeria, as well as other countries in Africa, outlawing same-sex marriages and membership of gay rights organisations.


Private View: Thursday 18 September 2014, 6:30 – 8:30pm



1:54 Panel Conversation: Rotimi Fani-Kayode

Thursday 16 October, 4 – 5:30pm
1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, Somerset House
Entry included with fair ticket, seat reservations must be made via Eventbrite

Booking info

As part of the second edition of the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, Christine Eyene, Guild Research Fellow in Contemporary Art at the University of Central Lancashire, Renee Mussai, Curator and Head of Archive at Autograph ABP, and Maria Varnava, Director of Tiwani Contemporary, discuss Rotimi Fani-Kayode’s practice. In partnership with Autograph ABP.


Yinka Shonibare MBE in conversation with Mark Sealy

Saturday 01 November 2014, 3pm
Free event. Limited spaces, reservation essential.

Artist Yinka Shonibare MBE and Autograph ABP Director Mark Sealy discuss Rotimi Fani-Kayode’s work and legacy. This event marks the last day of Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955 – 1989) at Tiwani Contemporary in partnership with Autograph ABP.



Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955–1989) was born in Lagos, Nigeria to a prominent Yoruba family who left Africa as refugees in 1966 and moved to Brighton in the UK. He later studied at Georgetown University and the Pratt Institute in the USA, before settling permanently in the UK in 1983 where he lived and worked until his early death in Brixton, London from a short and unexpected illness on December 21, 1989. The main body of Fani-Kayode’s work was created between 1983 and 1989. His photographs have been exhibited internationally since 1985, including several solo exhibitions presented by Autograph ABP, at Harvard University, USA in 2009; Rivington Place, London in 2011; and Iziko South African National Gallery, South Africa in 2014. In 2003, his work featured in the African Pavilion at the 50th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy, and in 2011 in ARS 11 at Kiasma-Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, Finland. His works are represented in the permanent collections of the V&A Museum in London, the Artur Walther Foundation, NY/Neu-Ulm, and in numerous other international private and public collections.