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Rotimi Fani-Kayode
Umbrella, 1987

Rotimi Fani-Kayode's 1987 self-portrait is a profoundly personal exploration of desire, diaspora and visibility

ABOUT THE artwork

Artist Rotimi Fani-Kayode created Umbrella at his studio in South London, in 1987. During a tragically brief six-year career, Fani-Kayode used photography to explore themes of race, sexuality, spirituality and the self. He masterfully staged and crafted portraits, including this dramatic black and white image, visualising black queer self-expression through a fusing of African and European cultures.

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. Prominent in the Black British art scene in the 1980s, and an important figure in the history of art, Fani-Kayode was one of the first chairs of Autograph and a founding signatory. Umbrella is held in our collection of photography.

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

about the artist

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


Umbrella has been widely seen in exhibitions at The Iziko South African National Gallery, Tiwani Contemporary and more



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



Artist Ajamu chose to respond to Umbrella in his 2023 artist commission, part of his Autograph The Patron Saint of Darkrooms

The umbrella has several meanings: it serves as protection, it hides the face, it reflects light

Ajamu, artist

Ajamu's Autograph commission Umbrella, 2023, inspired by Rotimi Kani-Kayode's work

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Ajamu's first self-portrait in more than a decade responds to the legacy of black queer photographer Rotimi Fani-Kayode

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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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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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Ajamu Artist Newspaper

Published to accompany Ajamu's exhibition The Patron Saint of Darkrooms

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Images, from top: 1) Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Umbrella, 1987. Courtesy of Autograph, London.) Sunil Gupta, Portrait of Rotimi Fani-Kayode. © and courtesy Sunil Gutpa. 2) Umbrella on display at Tiwani Contemporary, London in Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955-1989) (19 September - 1 November 2014).