Seven years ago, awardwinning art photographer Medina Dugger left her California home to work for the African Artists’ Foundation and LagosPhoto Festival.
Almost a decade into her life in Nigeria, Dugger’s name has become synonymous with the contemporary visual arts scene and, within the last year, her photographic style has evolved into a series that honours the work of one of Nigeria’s most renowned image-makers. Chroma: An Ode to J.D Okhai Ojeikere references the traditional African hairstyles that became a hallmark of Ojeikere’s work. Half a century separates the two projects, with Dugger’s iteration fusing the subject and style of the originator with up-to-the-moment influences from documentary film, fashion, and futurism.
Directly inspired by the work of film maker Andrew Dosunmu, artist Shani Crow, photographer Namsa Leuba, and writer Antawan I. Byrd, Dugger took to her small studio to style and shoot what have become dynamic, vibrant artworks in their own right.
Dugger’s shots – whether embodying movement or a serene sense of poise – contain a mellifluous fusion of textures and tones, forming a kaleidoscope of almost audible colours. Pink Buns is a soft, psychedelic take on a pre-adolescent afro-in-training, while an attitude of acid rock emanates from the electric tresses of Silver Calabar in Torlowei. There’s a nod to Prince and his wellrooted allegiance to P-Funk in the swivelling Purple Kinky Calabar. The theatre of Fela’s stage dancers are drummed up in Orange Koroba with Ponytail, complete with its traditional Yoruba intricacy; a style that sits well with the infusions of African masquerade culture in the neon-hued Green Tea Cup and Saucer, as well as the highly regal construction of the magentatoned Magenta Patewo Flower in Maison Château Rouge.
Chroma forms part of an onward visual journey for Dugger. With creativity firmly embedded in her DNA (her mother was a painter), she has distinct plans to broaden the project. Seeking a wider geographical backdrop for these theatrical headshots, she seeks to invite the Lagos metropolis into the process. “I wish to expand on the series and photograph hairstyles with colourful extensions throughout the city,” says Dugger, with the intention of putting these images together with her studio images to create a book.
The addition of elements of high fashion and experimental architecture in Chroma work together to push Dugger’s interpretations beyond Ojeikere’s late-60s starting point. Her subtle visual references to three decades of performative culture manage a dexterous nod to the past, while also highlighting a sense of political futurism.
An article by Nana Ocran
Featured image : Medina Dugger, “Spikey Calabar”, from series ” Chroma : An ode to J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere”, 2017. Fiber Pigment Print on Dibond. Edition sizes 45.7 x 60.6 cm and 91.45 x 121.2 cm. Copyright: Medina Dugger. Courtesy Art Twenty One. Hair designs by Ijeoma Christopher.
This article was written for The Art Momentum | Cape Town Art Fair Artpaper. [French version inside]
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