Artist Iké Udé’s exhibit Nollywood Portraits, on view at the National Museum of African Art through February 2023, highlights the talents behind Nigeria’s $3 billion film industry. Courtesy of The Smithsonian

By Southwester Staff 

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art has laid out a red carpet for guests to enter its latest exhibit: Iké Udé: Nollywood Portraits.

Udé’s world spans from homeland of Nigeria to his current base New York. In 2014, he returned to Nigeria to create portraits of film stars, directors and producers in Nigeria’s $3 billion film industry, known as “Nollywood.”

As a multimedia artist, Udé takes a performative, autobiographical approach to photography.  By uniting  the arts of performance and portraiture, he creates vibrant works that celebrate the beauty and mystique of the talented artists while simultaneously making a bold statement of the power of African identity, not to be erased by Eurocentric art and notions of beauty.

“Iké Udé is a true visionary who presents himself and the world around him with a combination of outrageous style, cutting intellectual humor and exacting detail,” said Karen Milbourne, senior curator for the National Museum of African Art. “He reveals how each of us performs our identity, and in the case of these Nollywood stars, he takes us beyond the façade of celebrity. He invites us to see how they, themselves, want to be seen.”

In addition to Udé’s portraits, some of the glamorous garments styled by the stars and a bespoke set will be on display at the exhibition, as well as film clips and interviews with Nollywood celebrities such as Alexx Ekubo and Taiwo Ajai-Lycett.

Visitors are invited to bring their best selves and outfits to take a photograph in an Udé-style set, and can explore portrait art using interactive tools in which they can combine set, stage and costume to envision lustrous compositions of their own. 

The exhibition is on display until February 2023.

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