Iké Udé: Nollywood Portraits puts African Beauty and Fashion on Display at the Smithsonian

This Black History month, learn more about Africa’s biggest movie industry, Nollywood via Iké Udé: Nollywood Portraits, an exhibition by the Nigerian-born multimedia artist that will be live at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art from February 5 2022 till February 2023.

Figures from Ike Ude's Nollywood Portraits
Iké Udé: Nollywood Portraits showcases celebrities in the Nigerian movie industry. Image courtesy of The Chicago Lite

On display will be 33 of Udé’s 64 portraits of Nollywood film stars, directors and producers which he created between 2014 and 2016 using pigment on satin rag paper as his medium. They are all reminiscent of what is considered ‘classical’ portraiture, and while the subjects are glamorous and elegant, the portraits themselves represent an artistic balance of composition, form, and colour.

Says Osahon Akpata, Project Director of Nollywood Portraits: “The radical beauty of these portraits is intended to make a bold statement about the portrayal of our people at the highest art and cultural institutions in the world.”

Kunle Afolayan as portrayed by Iké Udé
Kunle Afolayan as portrayed by Iké Udé. Image courtesy of The Smithsonian

Akpata has also disclosed that in addition to the exhibition, there will be a global virtual launch event on February 11, 2022. It will feature an interactive session with the artist, Iké Udé, and four Nollywood stars discussing their portrait experience, as well as an exclusive preview of Udé’s documentary short, Nollywood in Focus, and a sneak peek of the exhibition.

“Black History Month is an opportunity to reflect on the contributions of African people across the globe to art, to history, to culture and to our common humanity,” explains Ngaire Blankenberg, Director of the National Museum of African Art, on the significance of the exhibition.

Linda Ejiofor portrait
Celebrities have been portrayed to look like themselves and not like their status. Image courtesy of The Smithsonian

“Whether he turns his camera on himself, flowers or the talented stars of Nollywood, Iké Udé presents a world of beauty, and most powerfully, a world that centres on African beauty.”

Portrait of Joke Silva by Ike Ude
Visitors will be able to explore some of the garments styled by the stars. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian
What should visitors expect at the exhibition?

There will be so much more going on besides the portraits. Visitors will be able to explore fashion, film clips and interviews with Nollywood celebrities like Alexx Ekubo and Taiwo Ajai-Lycett. Some of the garments styled by the stars will also be on display and a bespoke set with which they can employ to create their own identities with the help of on-site stylists will be available.

Portrait of OC Ukeje
Visitors can also bring their clothes for an Ude-like portrait at the museum. Image courtesy of The Smithsonian

Those coming in on the weekend are encouraged to bring their best selves (and outfits) to the museum to be enhanced by an on-site stylist before taking a photograph in an Udé-style set. They can also explore portrait art using interactive tools in which they can combine set, stage and costume to envision lustrous compositions of their own.

Iké Udé: Nollywood Portraits will be a display of African fashion, art, culture and beauty, and visitors can expect to be transported to a world magical, interesting world where everything is possible.

Source: The Eagle Online

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