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."
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.
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.
Autograph is a place to see things differently. Since 1988, we have championed photography that explores issues of race, identity, representation, human rights and social justice, sharing how photographs reflect lived experiences and shape our understanding of ourselves and others.Donate Join our mailing list