Erhabor Ogieva Emokpae, 1934-1984
Costume and Textile
H x W: 541 x 107.3 cm (213 x 42 1/4 in.)
Gift of Flora Edouwaye S. Kaplan
In the 1950s and 1960s, as African nations achieved independence, fancy prints produced with photographs of political leaders and traditional rulers quickly became historical documents of an important and exciting time in African history. This fancy print cloth with S.O. Alonge's official coronation photograph of Prince S.I.A. Akenzua, Oba of Benin, was reproduced on commemorative cloths in 1979.
Solomon Osagie Alonge was photographer to the Royal Court of Benin, Nigeria, appointed as the first official court photographer in 1933 by Oba Akenzua II. He learned the craft of photography as a youth in Lagos during the 1920s and saw himself and his profession as an honorable and distinguished calling. He demonstrated an inclusive documentary perspective in his efforts to photograph many aspects of the world around him. In 1942, Alonge established the Ideal Photography Studio in Benin City and documented colonial society, the establishment of churches and businesses, and the formation of new civic organizations, athletic clubs and social groups like the Benin Social Club. As a commercial photographer, Alonge photographed individual and group portraits, preserving a visual record of the everyday lives and peoples of Benin City. Alonge’s studio portraits illustrate how local Bini residents presented themselves to the camera and engaged with the practice of photography during the early-to-mid-20th century.
Factory-printed cloths were introduced into Africa from Europe in the 19th century. The 1920s and 1930s saw the introduction of “fancy fabrics” or imitation wax fabrics produced industrially through the printing process and nowadays printed digitally. These cotton fabrics consist of large blocks of bright color and intricate designs, often with photographic imagery on one side. Fancy fabrics are quickly produced and sold for mass consumption. They are worn on special occasions like coronations, weddings and funerals.
Benin commemorative cloth, featuring photographs of the Coronation of Oba Erediauwa, January 19, 1979, in orange, yellow and black.
Designed by Prince Edu Akenzua, brother of Oba Erediauwa
Flora Edouwaye S. Kaplan, -- to 2004
Chief S.O. Alonge: Photographer to the Royal Court of Benin, Nigeria, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., September 17, 2014-July 31, 2016