Online Gallery

Race, Sexuality, Spirituality and the Self

The Photography of Rotimi Fani-Kayode

Rotimi Fani-Kayode was born in Lagos, Nigeria to a prominent Yoruba family before moving to England following the 1966 outbreak of civil war in Nigeria. He later studied at Georgetown University and the Pratt Institute in the USA, before settling permanently in London in 1983 where he lived and worked until his early death from a short and unexpected illness on December 21 1989.

During his tragically brief six-year career, Fani-Kayode produced a complex body of photographic work, exploring themes of race, sexuality, spirituality, and the self. His masterfully staged and crafted portraits, sometimes quietly monochromatic and at other times rich in saturated color, stand as powerful, resolutely ambiguous, visual statements. At the core of Fani-Kayode’s practice is an important emphasis on the cultural politics of difference.

A prominent figure in the Black British art scene, Fani-Kayode was one of the first chairs of Autograph and a founding member in 1988. Many of his photographs were created in collaboration with his late partner Alex Hirst and are collected in the posthumous 1996 publication Rotimi Fani-Kayode and Alex Hirst: Photographs. We're sharing a selection of the artist's works from our collection, to coincide with LGBT+ history month.

Four Twins, 1985

Nothing to Lose XII (Bodies of Experience), 1989

City Gent, 1988

Every Moment Counts (Ecstatic Antibodies), 1989

Cargo of Middle Passage, 1989

Every Moment Counts II (Ecstatic Antibodies), 1989

Snap Shot, 1987

On three counts I am an outsider: in terms 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

Adebiyi, 1989

Maternal Milk, 1986

Grapes, 1989

Untitled, 1985

Untitled, 1988

Dan Mask, 1989

Untitled, 1985

The Black Friar, 1989

about the artist

Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955 - 1989)

A founding member and first chairman 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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All images by Rotimi Fani-Kayode and courtesy of Autograph, London.
Banner image: Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Dan Mask [detail], 1989.
Other images on page: 1) Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Umbrella, 1987. 2) Cover of book Rotimi Fani-Kayode & Alex Hirst: Photographs.