“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture, is like a tree without roots.”
Marcus Garvey, one of the founders of the Pan-Africanism movement in the early 1900s
Documenting and archiving culture is the key to understanding origins and thus developing a sense of identity. Few would argue that in Nigeria, there are simply not enough cultural archives in existence. One of the largest and most important countries in Africa, Nigeria is rich in traditions and customs - both indigenous and modern - as well as many different monarchies. Pre-colonially, many kingdoms have existed in this region, governed by their monarchs who managed inter-village diplomacy, carried out the will of the people and prevented tyranny. Then came the intrusion of the British, who also created some new kings and kingdoms from existing ones.
Although the monarchs hold no constitutional rule (the monarchy system was abolished in 1963, making Nigeria a republic within the commonwealth), the monarchial structure has remained relevant in the political landscape of the country. These kings command great respect and trust from their tribes, and though there is very little known about the many different royalties in Nigeria, they are considered to be a major part of the country’s history. While there are no official figures of the number of kings in our current period, the guess is that there are as many kings as there are tribes. Unfortunately, a lot of the newer generations cannot relate to or identify with their traditional rulers - however, these vestiges of a former age remain: their ancient traditions preserved, their wisdom and power still honored.
Depicting ancient customs, architecture, and fantastic finery, Nigeria Monarchs will take us into the inner circle of many of these tribes through the persona of their king. Gorgeous formal portraits, in full regalia, are accompanied by brief biographies and historical notes on the tribe and the rituals and history associated with each ruler. Nigeria Monarchs introduces us to a way of life rarely glimpsed, with anthropological roots as deep as any on the earth, as they make the transition into a new millennium.
The idea behind this project is to travel around this diverse country and go beyond the portraits; to investigate the subject’s environments - being the custodians of Nigeria’s cultural heritage and peace makers - and explore their architecture and fashion, with the view to showcase and celebrate them. Ultimately, my aim is to mirror the country’s great culture through their personalities. I am of the view - especially in this time of sectarian and insecurity crisis - that people generally see the diverse nature among its various people as a strength, and not as a weakness or divide.