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. ‘Okhai Ojeikere.
African hair braiding methods date back thousands of years and Nigerian hair culture is a rich and extensive process that 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 & marital status, age and tribal/family traditions. The availability of colorful extensions and wools in local markets today has led to unique variations on braiding techniques, however in Lagos, some of the more intricate styles are becoming less and less common.
Ojeikere's approach was documentary in nature as he took inventory of over 1000 styles and amassed an 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-colonisation, wigs and hair straightening had become popular, 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. Cities today around the world resemble each other more and more, with gentrification diluting individuality and cultural specificity in favor of a prevailing mainstream model. As the world becomes more and more connected, new opportunities, influences and understanding arise, however the social and cultural practices which contribute to the character of a civilization and its people remains an essential component of understanding our past and future.
Chroma aims to preserve and encourage an ancient Nigerian practice, featuring it in a contemporary perspective. The series is a tribute as well to the skill and artistry required for hairstyling, a practice that most, regardless of their background or ethnicity, can identify with. Highlighting both traditional and contemporary styles, the series takes more of a whimsical approach to Ojeikere’s documentary style and recontextualizes 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.