LAST month an extraordinary collection of photographs returned to Nigeria. Chief Solomon Osagie Alonge took pictures of the people of Benin City for over half a century, amassing an archive of more than 3,000 images. Spanning British rule and the early decades of independence, it is a visual record of style and self-expression, of everyday humanity in a country in flux.
As the first official photographer of the court of Benin, Alonge documented palace life and pageantry from 1933 to 1979. In a photograph from 1938, Oba Akenzua II, the monarch, stands between the Earl of Plymouth and Nigeria’s governor-general, looking into the distance. His richly-layered robes and coral beads contrast with the stiff white uniforms of the British, his perturbed but determined stare with their disdainful gazes. A hand-coloured image from 1956 shows the Oba bowing slightly as he shakes the white-gloved hand of Queen Elizabeth II, four years before the declaration of Nigeria’s independence. Again it is a photo of contrasts, his rust-tinted regalia…Continue reading
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