Nollywood Portraits: A Radical Beauty is a body of work created by Nigerian-American artist, Iké Udé. Born in Nigeria in 1964, Udé has lived in New York since the 1980s over which time he has earned a reputation of a master portraitist being compared with legendary artists such as Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Andy Warhol in an editorial. His work has exhibited and is in the permanent collection of renowned museums and galleries such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Smithsonian Museum of Art and he has created portraits of several international celebrities including actress Isabella Rosellini, designer Manolo Blahnik and singer Rihanna. In October, 2014 after over three decades away, Iké Udé returned to Lagos, Nigeria and took photos of 64 Nollywood personalities, capturing an impressive cross section of the industry including screen icon, Genevieve Nnaji, established actor/director Stephanie Okereke Linus and maverick filmmaker, Kunle Afolayan as well as the next generation of rising stars.
The portrait was part of the exhibition ‘Nollywood Portraits: A Radical Beauty, which’ was curated by the African Artists Foundation and exhibited at Alliance Francaise in Lagos, Nigeria.
The exhibition featured works by Nigerian-born, New York based photographer Ike Ude. It was Ike Ude first solo exhibition in his native country Nigeria, offering a substantial presentation of his portraits of members of Nigeria's vibrant movie scene. Nollywood is a 3-billion-dollar industry and the second largest film industry in the world.
Ike Ude orchestrates a dramatic cinematic atmosphere of light and colour, whereby the industry's illustrious veterans, in company with the next generation of emerging talent pose in classically staged shots. Pictorial representations include personalities such as actress Genevieve Nnaji, director Stephanie Okereke Linus and filmmaker Kunle Afolayan. The thematic thread that intertwines this body of work, culminates in the centrepiece of the collection titled 'The School of Nollywood'. The title is both play on, and departure from the artistic opulence of one of Raphael Sanzio Urbino's notable fresco, The School ef Athens (1509). The painting is of a grandiose architectural framework, depicting prominent philosophers of Greek antiquity, posed in a manner whereby they dominate but do not crowd their environment.
With these works of portraiture, Ude complements the discourse on the representation of Africans in cinema, from colonial domination and inferior stereotypes to one of intellect and creative agency in telling our own stories.