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Rotimi Fani-Kayode
City Gent, 1988

Rotimi Fani-Kayode's 1988 photograph examines the politics of desire and the black male body

ABOUT THE artwork

City Gent is a photograph by artist Rotimi Fani-Kayode, and was taken in London in 1988 in Brixton, South London. Fani-Kayode's photographs visualise black queer self-expression through a fusing of African and European cultures, forming a profound narrative of sexual and cultural difference. In a career of only six years, he explored themes of race, sexuality, spirituality, and the self.

Fani-Kayode was born in 1955, in Lagos, Nigeria to a prominent Yorùbá family before moving to England following the outbreak of civil war. He later studied in the USA, before settling permanently in London where he lived and worked until his untimely death in 1989. He was a founding signatory and one of the first chairs of Autograph, and his work is held in our collection of photography.

The model in City Gent is the artist Ajamu, a scholar, archive curator and radical sex activist whose work challenges dominant ideas around masculinity, gender, sexuality and representation of black LGBTQ+ people in the United Kingdom. Autograph has worked with Ajamu since the 1990s, including on his 2023 exhibition The Patron Saint of Darkrooms. Ajamu recalls: "I visited his flat and sheepishly shared some of my own prints and contact sheets. I occasionally posed for him: I was always watching, looking, and listening to him. He gave his time generously."

about the artist and sitter

Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955 - 1989)

A founding signatory and one of the first chairs of Autograph, Fani-Kayode was actively engaged in the Black British art scene during the 1980s.

His photographs have been exhibited internationally since 1985, with numerous solo and group exhibitions in Europe, America and Africa. In 2003, his work featured in the African Pavilion at the 50th Venice Biennale, Italy and today his works are represented in major public and private collectors including Tate, Guggenheim Museum; Victoria & Albert Museum; The Walther Collection; The Hutchins Center; Kiasma-Museum of Contemporary Art; and the collection of Yinka Shonibare CBE, amongst others.

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Ajamu (b.1965)

Ajamu is a photographic artist, scholar, archive curator and radical sex activist best known for his imagery that challenges dominant ideas around black masculinity, gender, sexuality, and representation of black LGBTQ people in the United Kingdom.

He is the co-founder of rukus! Federation and the rukus! Black Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer + Archive and one of a few leading specialists on Black British LGBTQ+ history, heritage, and cultural memory in the UK. In 1997, Ajamu was the Autograph x Lightwork artist-in-residence in Syracuse, USA developing a series of self-portraits during his residency. He studied at the Jan van Eyck Akademie, Maastricht, The Netherlands, and is currently an PhD candidate at Royal College of Art, London. In 2022 Ajamu was canonised by The Trans Pennine Traveling Sisters as The Patron Saint of Darkrooms in his hometown Huddersfield and he received an honorary fellowship from the Royal photographic society.

Ajamu’s works have been shown in exhibitions in museums, galleries, and alternatives spaces across globally since the 1990s, his recent solo exhibitions include Archival Senoria at Cubitt Gallery, 2021. As well as included in several thematic group Very Private? at Charleston House, 2022; Fashioning Masculinities, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2022; Kiss My Genders, Hayward Gallery, 2019; Get Up, Stand Up Now, Somerset House, 2019; On our Backs: The Revolution Art of Queer Sex Work, Leslie Lohman Museum, 2019. His works are currently on show as part of the group exhibition A Hard Man is Good to Find! at The Photographers’ Gallery, London. Ajamu’s works are held in collections including Tate, London; Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow; Autograph, London; Neuberger Museum of Art, New York amongst others. His second monograph AJAMU: ARCHIVE was published in 2021.

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This photograph is in Autograph's permanent collection of photography, where it has been conserved and digitised

widely seen

Autograph has loaned this work from our collection to numerous exhibitions - seen by hundreds of thousands of people


City Gent has featured in exhibitions at institutions including The Barbican, Somerset House and FOMU


This image is included in Barbican's photography book Masculinities: Liberation Through Photography



City Gent featured in Autograph's retrospective exhibition Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955-1989)

further research

As part of a grant from the Paul Mellon Centre, Autograph has recently researched the contact sheets for City Gent 

City Gent on display at The Barbican, London in Masculinities: Liberation through Photography (2020)

related CONTENT

Online gallery

View our online gallery of Rotimi Fani-Kayode's photography

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The Patron Saint of Darkrooms

Ajamu's solo exhibition at Autograph's gallery in London

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Agency, Advocacy and Acquisition

Mark Sealy traces thirty years of advocacy work

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Black Queer Erotica in the Archive

Jason Okundaye on the significance of queer erotica in the archives of Black cultural memory

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View Ajamu's work

In our online gallery Pleasure as Activism

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Belief, Faith and Spirit in Creative Practice

Evan Ifekoya, reflects on the photographic work of Rotimi Fani-Kayode

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Rotimi Fani-Kayode & Alex Hirst: Photographs

Vintage hardcover photography book

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Banner image: Rotimi Fani-Kayode, City Gent, 1988. Courtesy of Autograph, London.

Images on page: 1) Sunil Gupta, Portrait of Rotimi Fani-Kayode. © and courtesy Sunil Gutpa. 2) Ajamu signing prints of Power Drill Heels at Autograph, 2021. Courtesy Renée Mussai. 3) City Gent on display at The Gropius Bau, Berlin in Masculinities: Liberation through Photography (16 October 2020 - 10 January 2021) Photo: Luca Girardini. © Gropius Bau. 4) Cover of book Rotimi Fani-Kayode & Alex Hirst: Photographs.