Nigeria Monarchs: The Custodians of Peace and Cultural Heritage
The Lagos-based photographer produces some of the most incredible photojournalism I’ve ever seen; this series Nigeria Monarchs: The Custodians of Peace and Cultural Heritage documents the figures across Nigeria who, in spite of having no constitutional rule since the monarchy was officially abolished in 1963, remain key personalities in the country’s political landscape. The travelling exhibition had a stint in London last year and is about to open in Budapest, Hungary, serving as further proof (if any was needed) of the curiosity which pervades worldwide about these majestic and exotic figures. What’s more George hopes to photograph 100 of the monarchs, so the collection is not due to stop growing any time soon.
Nigeria Monarchs will run from 19 September until 14 December at the Ethnographic Museum in Budapest, Hungary.
The woman with the haunted look staring back out of the photograph has never existed. She is a composite, created by overlaying four different photos of four different faces: three sisters, all middle-aged Austrian women, and their brother, the philosophical genius Ludwig Wittgenstein.
“Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not respond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception. How many colors are there in a field of grass to the crawling baby unaware of ‘Green’? How many rainbows can light create for the untutored eye? How aware of variations in heat waves can that eye be? Imagine a world alive with incomprehensible objects and shimmering with an endless variety of movement and innumerable gradations of color. Imagine a world before the ‘beginning was the word.” ― Stan Brakhage
In 1957, I had the opportunity to join a group of French journalists “invited” to visit North Korea. I would only realize later what a unique opportunity that was. The four years following the war (a conflict soberly described by General Bradley as the “wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy”) had been dedicated mostly to rebuilding a bomb-stricken country, and the formidable propaganda machine that would soon be identified with the sheer mention of North Korea wasn’t yet running at full throttle. We were subjected to a sizable dose of propaganda, but between two obligatory sessions of Socialist kowtowing, our hosts allowed us an amount of free walking unequalled since. Many years later, I could contemplate on television the predicament of a Belgian delegation whose members supplicated their guide to see, at least once, a marketplace -and after having visited the museum in honor of comrade Kim Jong-il, the library with the complete works of comrade Kim Jong-il, the factory that followed the directives of comrade Kim Jong-il, they were finally taken to an empty space outside the city, where a marketplace would be established according to the plans of comrade Kim Jong-il. Watching the image of hopelessness on the faces of the poor wretches made me appreciate even more the liberty I had enjoyed to hang around Pyongyang with my camera and to look everywhere, including marketplaces. Amusingly, the result of those strolls was equally rejected on both sides of the 38th parallel. To the North, a book which never mentioned once the name of Kim Il-sung simply didn’t exist. To the South, the raw fact that it had been allowed to be done in North Korea made it a tool of communist propaganda. That’s how, I was told, it was exhibited in Seoul’s counter-revolutionary museum, and its author introduced as a “Marxist dog”. I didn’t mind. Since Snoopy, the word “dog” has ceased to be an insult in my cats-ruled world. Then Time froze on that country whose culture had fascinated me, as well as the mesmerizing beauty of its women, while the megalomaniac leadership of both Kims had proven a disaster. Many examples of that freeze would appear in the news, the most recent so incredible that it escaped many commentators. When the DPRK (that’s its official name) launched the famous rocket that worried the whole world, the KOREAN NEWS agency published the following communiqué : “The Secretariat of the C.C., the Communist Party of the Soviet Union fully supports the steadfast stand of the Workers’ Party of Korea led by General Secretary Kim Jong Il”. Yes, you read correctly : “Soviet Union”. In 2009. Perhaps nobody ever dared to update comrade Kim Jong-il.