Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955-1989): Traces of Ecstasy

  • Posted: Feb 13, 2014

Iziko South African National Gallery, 12 February – 15 May 2014

Iziko Museums of South Africa, in partnership with Autograph ABP, will host the first retrospective museum exhibition in Africa of Rotimi Fani-Kayode’s photographs. The exhibition marks the 25thanniversary of the artist’s death, and opens at the Iziko South African National Gallery on 12 February 2014. 

A seminal figure in 1980s black British and African contemporary art, Fani-Kayode’s timeless photographic tableaux constitute a profoundly personal and political exploration of complex notions of desire, diaspora, and spirituality.

The exhibition will include key bodies of work in both colour and black and white, alongside a selection of archival material such as unique polaroids and contact sheets. In his large-scale portraits, the black male body becomes the focal point of a photographic enquiry to imaginatively interpret the boundaries between spiritual and erotic fantasy, cultural and sexual difference. Ancestral rituals and a provocative, multi-layered symbolism fuse with archetypal motifs from European and African cultures and subcultures - inspired by what Yoruba priests call ‘the technique of ecstasy’.

In 1987, Nigerian-born Fani-Kayode poignantly wrote: ‘On three counts I am an outsider: in matters of sexuality; in terms of geographical and cultural dislocation and in the sense of not having become the sort of respectably married professional my parents might have hoped for.’

Curated by Mark Sealy and Renée Mussai of Autograph ABP, London, this first major retrospective in an African art museum comes at a time when Nigeria has enacted harsh legislation to enforce rigid norms in terms of human sexuality. A founding member and the first Chair of Autograph ABP, Fani-Kayode died at the age of 34.

The exhibition runs at the Iziko South African National Gallery until 15 May 2014, and is supported by Arts Council England, the Goethe Institute (South Africa) and Iziko Museums of South Africa. Works on display are loaned from the collections of Yinka Shonibare MBE, and Autograph ABP, London.


Issued by: Melody Kleinsmith

Communications Coordinator: Institutional Advancement, Iziko Museums of South Africa

Telephone +27 (0) 21 481 3861                                   Facsimile +27 (0) 21 461 9620

Cell 073 107 4955                                                              E-mail



On behalf of:     Office of the CEO, Iziko Museums of South Africa

Notes to editor:

About the artist:

Rotimi Fani-Kayode(1955-1989) was born in Nigeria in 1955 to a prominent Yoruba family who left Africa as political refugees in 1966. He received a B A at Georgetown University in Washington, DC in 1980, and an M F A at Pratt Institute in New York in 1983, before returning to the United Kingdom where he lived and worked until his death in 1989.  Fani-Kayode's photographs have been exhibited internationally since 1985, and are represented in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Walther Foundation, NY/Neu-Ulm; Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki; Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney; and numerous other private and public collections worldwide. A majority of his work is collected in the posthumous 1996 publication ‘Rotimi Fani-Kayode and Alex Hirst: Photographs’.

About Autograph ABP -

Established in 1988 with the mission of advocating the inclusion of historically marginalised photographic practices, Autograph ABP is an arts charity that works internationally in photography, cultural identity, race, representation and human rights.  Autograph ABP has, since 1992, preserved the photographic legacy of its co-founder and first Chair, Rotimi Fani-Kayode. Since it was entrusted with this task by Fani-Kayode’s partner and collaborator, Alex Hirst, Autograph ABP has promoted their work, and the issues with which they dealt, with a sustained programme of work to an extensive public in the UK and abroad.


About Iziko Museums of South Africa (Iziko)

Iziko operates 11 national museums, the Planetarium, the Social History Centre and three collection‑specific libraries in Cape Town.  The museums that make up Iziko have their own history and character, presenting extensive art, social and natural history collections that reflect our diverse African heritage.  Iziko is a public entity and non-profit organisation that brings together these museums under a single governance and leadership structure.  The organisation allows *free access to all individuals on commemorative days, (*excluding the Castle of Good Hope and Planetarium). Visit our webpage at, join our online community on Facebook ( or follow us on Twitter (@Iziko_Museums) for regular updates on events, news and new exhibitions.

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