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J. D. 'Okhai Ojeikere

J. D. 'Okhai Ojeikere

Nigerian photographer
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Nigerian photographer
Countries Nigeria
Occupations Photographer
Gender male
Death February 2, 2014 (Lagos)
The details

Johnson Donatus Aihumekeokhai Ojeikere (1930 – 2 February 2014) was a Nigerian photographer who is known for his work with unique hairstyles found in Nigeria.


Johnson Donatus Aihumekeokhai Ojeikere (J.D. 'Okhai Ojeikere) was born in 1930 in Ovbiomu-Emai, a rural village in South Western Nigeria. He worked and lived in Ketu, Nigeria. At the age of 20 he pursued a future in photography, which was out of the ordinary for people in Nigeria, especially those in his village. Cameras were not in high demand and were of low priority as they were considered a luxury. However, 'Okhai Ojeikere was passionate about photography and in 1950 bought a modest Brownie D camera without flash, and had a friend teach him the fundamentals of photography.

'Okhai Ojeikere started out as a darkroom assistant in 1954 at the Ministry of Information in Ibadan. After Nigeria gained its independence in 1960, Ojeikere pursued his first job as a photographer. In 1961 he became a studio photographer, under Steve Rhodes, for Television House Ibadan. From1963 until 1975 Ojeikere worked in publicity at West Africa Publicity in Lagos. During his time in publicity, specifically in the year 1967, he joined the Nigerian Arts Council. In 1968 he began one of his largest projects as he documented Nigerian hairstyles. This was a hallmark of Ojeikere's work and he had printed approximately a thousand pictures of different African women's hair.

A large selection of Ojeikere's work was included in the arsenale section of the 55th Venice Biennale d'arte, "Il Palazzo Enciclopedia" curated by Massimiliano Gioni in 2013.

J.D. 'Okhai Ojeikere died on 2 February 2014, at the age of 83.

Solo exhibitions

  • 1995 Ojeikere’s first solo exhibition in Nigeria as well as an exhibition in Switzerland (first work shown outside of his home country)
  • 2005 Hairstyles: J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere, Blaffer Gallery, Art Museum of the University of Houston, Texas, USA.
  • 2001 J. D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere: Hairstyles 1968 – 1999, Mamco (Musée d’art moderne et contemporain), Geneva, Switzerland.
  • 2000 J. D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, France.

Group exhibitions

  • 2013 The Venice Biennale, The Encyclopedic Palace curated by Massimiliano Gioni
  • 2013 Voyage Retour - Federal Government Press, Broad Street, Lagos, Lagos Island, Nigeria
  • 2012 Africa/Africa – Abbaya St. André – Centre d’art contemporain Meymac, Meymac
  • 2011 Becoming: Photographs from the Wedge Collection – Tate Modern, London, England
  • 2010 A Midsummer Gallery Soiree, Hagedorn Foundation Gallery, Atlanta, GA, USA
  • 2010 National Black Arts Festival, Atlanta, GA, USA
  • 2010 70s. Photography and Everyday Life, Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam, Netherlands
  • 2010 70s. Photography and Everyday Life, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo, Serville, Spain
  • 2010 AIPAD, L. Parker Stephenson Photographs, Park Avenue Armory, New York, USA
  • 2009-2010 J. D. 'Okhai Ojeikere and Malick Sidibe: Hairdos and Parties- African Typologies, L. Parker Stephenson Photographs, New York, USA
  • 2009-2010 70s. Photography and Everyday Life, Museo D’Arte Provincia di Nuoro, Nuoro, Italy
  • 2009 70s. Photography and Everyday Life, Teatro Fernan Gomez, Photo Espana, Madrid, Spain
  • 2008 Head room – Mocca – Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, ON
  • Chance Encounters – Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai
  • 2006 100% Africa, Guggenheim Bilbao, Pigozzi Collection, Bilbao, Spain.
  • 2006 About Africa Part One: Seydou Keita, Malick Sidbé, Jean-Dominque Burton, Jurgen Schadeberg, J. D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere, Fifty-One Fine Art Photography, Antwerp, Belgium.
  • 2005 Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection MFAH – Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, USA.
  • 2004 Collection Agnes B, Les Abattoirs – Frac Midi-Pyrénées, Toulouse, France.
  • 2004 Joy of Life – two photographers from Africa: Seydou Keita, J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere, Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan.
  • 2004 Nous Remontons de la “Calle” Toutes les Photographies!, Galerie du Jour Agnés B., Paris, France.
  • 2003 Highlights from the collection of Foundation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris: William Eggleston, Beat Streuli, Bill Viola, Vik Muniz, J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere, Pierrick sorin, Bildmusset Umea universitet, Umea, Sweden.
  • 2002 Collection in Context – Recent Photography Acquisitions, The Studio Museum
  • 2001 Face Off – AEROPLASTICS Contemporary, Brussels
  • 2000 Africa: Past-Present – Fifty One Fine Art Photography, Antwerp

Public collections

  • The Walther Collection
  • Brooklyn Museum, New York
  • Cartier Foundation, Paris
  • Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
  • J. Paul Getty Museum of Art, Los Angeles
  • NSM Vie/ABM Amro
  • Studio Museum Harlem, New York
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


  • Ojeikere, J. D., & A. Magnin (2000). Okhai Ojeikere: Photographs. Scalo.

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