Exhibition Guide

Explore Akinbode Akinbiyi’s solo exhibition Six Songs, Swirling Gracefully in the Taut Air at the Gropius Bau online and read more about the long-term series composed by the Berlin-based Nigerian photographer.

Akinbode Akinbiyi, Berlin, Kreuzberg, 2018

Akinbode Akinbiyi, Berlin, Kreuzberg, 2018
From the series Photography, Tobacco, Sweets, Condoms and other Configurations, Courtesy: the artist

Photography, Tobacco, Sweets, Condoms and other Configurations

Since the late 1970s (ongoing)

In a world obsessed with the continuous stream of “instant images”, Akinbode Akinbiyi roams the city streets and passageways. He, thereby, slowly assembles the daily habitus, lived rhythms and social textures of places. In this series the motif of distribution channels for consumption and gratifying physical desires converge. Certain images also explore eroticisation of the urban terrains of Berlin. While people rush all around him, Akinbiyi plays the waiting game preferring to witness undramatic moments – both morbid and joyous. Eventually situating how hope resides in the dark inner life of cities as well as the convening between breathing bodies and spirituality.

African Quarter

Since the 1990s (ongoing)

African Quarter is a series of photographs made in Berlin since the late 1990s that plots candid encounters amidst the African diaspora and Afro-German communities in the city, especially around the neighbourhood of Wedding. Akinbode Akinbiyi traverses streets that are historically pegged to Germany’s colonial exploits with more recent stories of migration and persecution. Refracted views of the transforming metropolis recall ghosts from a shared past and marginalized voices of the present. As a counter-mapping of the city, Akinbiyi also visits streets that recall figures who strove to combat racism and upheld the long history of anti-colonial struggle. In sum, this series extends from the photographer’s autobiographical experience as a Berliner.

Akinbode Akinbiyi, Berlin, Wedding, 2005

Akinbode Akinbiyi, Berlin, Wedding, 2005
From the series African Quarter, courtesy: the artist

Akinbode Akinbiyi, Lagos Island, Lagos, 2004

Akinbode Akinbiyi, Lagos Island, Lagos, 2004
From the series Lagos: All Roads, courtesy: the artist

Lagos: All Roads

Since the 1980s (ongoing)

The epic project Lagos: All Roads portrays the many moods and faces of Akinbode Akinbiyi’s “home” city and Africa's largest metropolis. Created as its peripatetic inhabitant, and therein seen through both distance and proximity. His photographs approach the environment shuttling between anonymity and kinship, noise and refuge. Yet, the megacity is never fully grasped and circumnavigated, since it is in a continuous phase of reinvention and collapse. Akinbiyi notes, “What l’m doing is observing, taking part in this urban phenomenon and trying to record documents. lt is a kind of fine sensibility of understanding the passageways within the city.” Some of these scenes document the spread of photography studios, print outlets and billboards that convey the visual grammar of Lagos and its perennial relation to image-building.

Sea Never Dry

Since the 1980s (ongoing)

The sacred and profane interweave in Sea Never Dry, a series that brings together coastal zones of West African cities and Europe. lt portrays public life around beaches while also capturing interludes such as sacred ceremonies, street trade, tourism and inevitably, environmental degradation. This body of work commenced at Bar beach in Lagos, which has now disappeared into a construction site. Certain views reveal temporary architecture and ruins caught amid sands and the horizon. The sea is visited not only as a realm of commuting and migration but rather as a meeting place where the cosmopolitan spirit of cities is rejuvenated.

Akinbode Akinbiyi, Bar Beach, Victoria Island, Lagos, 2006

Akinbode Akinbiyi, Bar Beach, Victoria Island, Lagos, 2006
From the series Sea Never Dry, courtesy: the artist

Akinbode Akinbiyi: Six Songs, Swirling Gracefully in the Taut Air

Akinbode Akinbiyi: Six Songs, Swirling Gracefully in the Taut Air. Exhibition, 7 February to 17 May 2020, Gropius Bau. Photo: Laura Fiorio

Adama in Wonderland

2011–12

Across Akinbode Akinbiyi's immense corpus, the photograph performs as an intimate commemorative device and a mode of public address. In the series Adama in Wonderland he walks the grid-patterned streets of downtown Johannesburg and into its Southern and Western suburbs. He, thereby, annotates this city's rebellious spirit, rough edges and the racial tensions that pervade in the shadows of apartheid. As fine gold dust floats through the atmosphere, Akinbiyi's viewfinder turns to ordinary city residents and disappearing landmarks. His photographs also raise our awareness toward how this very landscape has been reshaped through forces of the mining industry, communal segregation and collective resistance.

I WONDER AS I WANDER

Short film by Emeka Okereke, 2019–20

In the short film I WONDER AS I WANDER, directed by Emeka Okereke, two Berlin-based Nigerian photographers of different generations engage in a filmic dialogue that transpires between Berlin and Bamako. lt captures Akinbode Akinbiyi’s decade-long pursuit of interrelating photographic processes with the physical and mental rigor of wandering. This weaving of sequences provide a glimpse into essential acts of daily observation, corporeal movement, urban noise and study of light. While Akinbiyi closely identifies with sacred philosophies of Yorubaland in connection to rhythm, symmetry and balance, we might also consider in parallel the words of Nigerian novelist, poet and critic Chinua Achebe, who has noted: “Among the lgbo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten.” Akinbiyi’s photographs are conversation pieces, extending a dialogue between the viewer and the viewed. For this film, Emeka Okereke draws on a conversation that was first recorded with Akinbyi as part of his podcast programme NKATA.

Emeka Okereke: I WONDER AS I WANDER, 2019–20 (film still)

Still from I WONDER AS I WANDER by Emeka Okereke, 2019–20