Oladélé Ajiboyé Bamgboyé

Article Bio Works Projects
exile, identity, racism, sexuality
Visual Arts (photography, video art)
Africa, Western, Europe, Western
Nigeria, England (UK)
created on:
August 5, 2003
last changed on:
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Rewriting Mapplethorpe’s “Black Book”

Oladélé Ajiboyé Bamgboyé was born in Nigeria in 1963 and studied Chemical Engineering in Glasgow from 1981 to 1985 and Media Art in London from 1996 to 1998. He was a founding member of Street Level Gallery in Glasgow, an exhibition curator at the Cambridge Darkroom Gallery, and has been exhibiting internationally since the mid-1990s. His photo and video works explore the multiple ways cultural identity is created, redefined, and represented. Mainly using himself as a subject, his often erotically charged images explore questions of race, sexuality, and exile. Bamgboyé lives in London.
In the late 1980s, Bamgboyé began producing photographs using himself as the subject in order to investigate the fragile composition of self. Creating charged images by often posing nude in front of his camera, he continuously refers to the contested sites of being black in a predominantly white society. Often overtly erotic, as in his series of black and white photographs “The Lighthouse - revisited No. 1-6” (1991-93/96), Bamgboyé’s work begins to address a broad range of questions and references. “The Lighthouse” is a series of six photographs that are in rough wooden frames and suspended from a wooden coat hanger, mirroring the domestic nature of the subject matter. In the photographs, Bamgboyé and a woman, both pictured nude, strike different poses that loosely resemble crucified, tied, or restrained positions that are simultaneously sexual and violent.

The photo series “Birds of Paradise (1-3) — A Profile of 7 Years of Desire” (1989) pictures two images of Bamgboyé, with nude chest and a single bird of paradise flower. In between these photos is a single picture of a nude white woman as she squats on the floor in front of a small table. The photographs recall the images of Robert Mapplethorpe, in their staged, somber atmosphere of black and white photography, but also in their deliberate conflation of flowers and eroticism. But for Bamgboyé, the body of the black male is no longer the object of desire but the reason through which the amorous and erotic relation between the protagonists become racially charged.

This topic continues to play a significant role in Bamgboyé’s oeuvre, and his 16mm installation “Spells for Beginners” (1994/2000) is a good example of the fine balance of cultural determinacy and personal sensibility that his works attempt to unravel. “Spells for Beginners” focuses on Bamgboyé and the Scottish artist Anne Rome Elliot, with whom he had a long-term, intimate relationship. As the film opens, we are introduced to the two figures individually, as she is filmed first in a domestic setting and then outside, and he is presented on a sofa elsewhere and then in the bathtub. The tension is played out on the level of dialogue, which consists of unscripted and painful confessional conversation between the two protagonists, who aim to come to terms with the failure of their relationship. Slowly, as the characters’ stories begin to unfold, it becomes clear how personal relationships are always inscribed within a larger contested cultural arena, such as when Elliot confesses that Bamgboyé was always her “showpiece.” In predominantly white Scotland, her relationship with a black man could not be perceived as anything other than racially charged, already filled with stereotypes and myths.

Since the mid-1990s, Bamgboyé has also produced works that concern the questions of origin and its representations. “The Unmasking” (1998) is a computer work in which Bamgboyé has layered the histories of iron smelting in Africa in the 6th century BC and of the production of bronze artifacts five hundred years later. “The Unmasking, part 2” (2000) addresses questions of preservation, archiving, and collecting Yoruba art in Canada and of the collection of Egyptian art at the British Museum in London. And in the videos “Well Without End” (1994) and “Homeward Bound” (1995-97), he problematizes his own relationship with Africa as an expatriate living in Europe. With these works, he attempts to “offer images that challenge those seen in the mass media, a strategy that I believe necessary for the normalizing of African representation” (Bamgboyé).

Author: Christian Rattemeyer


Born in Odo-Eku, Nigeria, 1963
Lives and works in London


Slade College of Fine Art University College, London, UK, M.A. in Media Fine Art Theory and Practice
Awarded Distinction by the University of London, 1998


Solo Exhibitions (Choice)

Exhibition / Installation
2003 "Introspect“, Spacex Gallery, Exeter, Great Britain "Oladélé Bamgboyé - Mark Leckey", Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich, Switzerland 2001 "Blink”, Thomas Erben Gallery, New York, USA "Unmasking 3“, Witte de With, Rotterdam, Netherlands 2000 "Selected Works”, Anne Faggionato Gallery, London, Great Britain "CD Audio Installation for Passengers of a Specially Commissioned Mercedes 300E Taxi”, Onepercent Gallery, Copenhagen, Denmark "New Works in the Project Gallery”, Center for Contemporary Art, Kitakyushu, Japan "Videoworks”, Helsinki City Art Museum, Helsinki, Finland "Photo-Videoworks 1991-2000”, Witte de With, Rotterdam, Netherlands 1999 ArtPace, San Antonio, Texas, USA 1998 "The Unmasking - Part I”, Slade College of Art UCL, London, Great Britain "Recent Video and Photoworks”, Gallery One Culturgest, Lisbon, Portugal "Movements”, Staedtische Galerie im Buntentor, Bremen, Germany 1995 "Well Without End”, Kuenstlerhaus Bethanien Studio II, Berlin, Germany 1994 "The Hair or the Man”, Thomas Erben Gallery New York, USA 1987 Third Eye Centre, Glasgow, Great Britain "A Cry for Africa”, Corridor Gallery, Fife, Great Britain 1985 "Photographs”, Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow, Great Britain

Group Exhibitions (Choice)

Exhibition / Installation
2003 "The Canary Islands Revisited”, Elba Benitez Gallery, Madrid, Spain "Animations“, KW Berlin, Berlin, Germany 2002 "2002 Taipei Biennial“, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipai, Taiwan 2001 "The Short Century”, Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, Germany "The Short Century”, House of World Cultures, Berlin, Germany "Metropolis Now”, Borusan Art Gallery Istanbul, Turkey "Transfer, Bildmuseet, Umea, Sweden 2000 "The Vincent van Gogh Bi-Annual Award for Contemporary Art in Europe Exhibition”, Bonnefantenmuseum Maastricht, Maastricht, Netherlands "Indiscipline”, Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussel, Belgium "More Works about Buildings and Food”, Oeiras, Portugal, Spain "New British Art 2000: Intelligence”, Tate Britain, London, Great Britain "The Adapted Writing Machine”, Musee d’Art Moderne, Paris, France "Dire Aids - Say Aids”, Palazzo della Promotrice delle Belle Arti, Turin, Italy "Metropolis Now“, Borusan Sanat Galerisi, Istanbul, Turkey 1999 "Bodies of Resistance”, Real Art Ways Hartford, Connecticut, USA "Bodies of Resistance”, Museum of Durban, Durban, South Africa "Laboratorium”, Provinciaal Museum voor Fotografie, Antwerp, Belgium "Summer Gallery Show”, Thomas Erben Gallery, New York, USA "Go Away - Artists and Travel”, Henry Moore Galleries Royal College of Art, London, Great Britain 1998 "Afromedi@rt”, Ethnology Museum Vienna, Vienna, Austria "Dak’Art - Dakar Biennial”, IFAN Cheikh Anta DIOP Museum of African Art, Dakar, Senegal "Interference”, Canal Isabel II Cuidad de Madrid, Madrid, Spain "Transatlantico”, Centro Atlantico de Arte Moderno, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain 1997 "Documenta X”, Kultur Bahnhof, Kassel, Germany "The Other Modernism”, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany "Alternating Currents”, Johannesburg Biennial, Johannesburg, South Africa "Cross/ing: Time-Space-Movement”, Contemporary Art Museum University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida, USA 1996 "Inclusion/Exclusion - Art in the Age of Post-Colonialism and Global Migration”, Reininghaus and Kuenstlerhaus, Graz, Austria "In/sight - African Photographers 1940 - Present”, Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA "Prospect 96”, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, Germany 1995 "Enigmas of Race, Difference and Desire”, Institute of Contemporary Art, London, Great Britain "Self-Evident”, Foto-Institute Rotterdam, Rotterdam, Netherlands "Self-Evident”, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, Great Britain "Freedom”, Art Gallery Glasgow, Glasgow, Great Britain 1994 "Whitechapel Open”, Whitechapel Art Gallery London, Great Britain 1993 "Exposure”, Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow, Great Britain 1992 "Shifting Borders”, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, Great Britain 1991 "Culturally (Dis)Placed”, Burnaby Art Gallery Vancouver, Canada "The Problematics of Identity in Photography”, Galerie Dazibao, Montreal, Canada 1990 "Either/Or”, Art Gallery Glasgow, Glasgow, Großbritannien 1989 "The Smith Biennial”, The Smith Art Gallery, Stirling, Großbritannien "Anima Mundi: Still Life in Britain”, Stills Gallery Edinburgh, Großbritannien 1988 Transmission Gallery Glasgow, Glasgow, Great Britain


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.

The Short Century

Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa

(18 May 01 - 29 July 01)