Chroma: An Ode to J.D. 'Okhai Ojeikere, Lagos, Nigeria, 2017-Ongoing

Chroma: An Ode to J.D. 'Okhai Ojeikere, is an on-going series which celebrates women’s hair Styles in Nigeria through a fanciful, contemporary lens. The images are inspired by hair color trends in Lagos and by the late Nigerian photographer J.D. Ojeikere.

African hair braiding methods date back thousands of years and Nigerian hair culture is a rich and often extensive process which begins in childhood. The methods and variations have been influenced by social/cultural patterns, historical events and globalisation. Hairdos range from being purely decorative to conveying deeper, more symbolic understandings, revealing social status, age and tribal/family traditions. 

Ojeikere's approach was documentary in nature as he took inventory of Over 1000 of styles and amassed an enormous index spanning over 40 years. He began photographing women's hair in black and white, following the re-emergence of traditional designs which became popular again following Nigeria’s independence. Prior to de-colonization, wigs and hair straightening had become a commonplace practice, especially in urban areas of the country. Today, some of the more intricate and traditional styles risk abandonment once again as a result of the influence of social media and global trends. As the world becomes more and more connected, new boarders are drawn, new opportunities for connection and understandings between countries and cultures arise, however the social and cultural practices which contribute to the character of a civilization and its people remains a unique factor with respect to identity and history. Cities today around the world resemble each other more and more, with gentrification and global trends diluting individuality and cultural specificity in favor of a prevailing mainstream model. 

Chroma aims to revive and preserve an ancient Nigerian practice, featuring it in a contemporary perspective. The availability of colorful extensions and wools in local markets today has led to unique variations on threading and braiding techniques. Chroma is a celebration of both traditional and contemporary methods. The series takes more of a whimsical approach to Ojeikere’s documentary style and recontextualizes some of his (and other) hairstyles to highlight current and imagined hair designs, celebrating the art of Nigerian hair culture.


For more on Ojeikere and his photography: J.D. 'Okhai Ojeikere published by CCA Lagos.