Behind a chartreuse veil, stitched with pearls of the same color, a woman gazes at the camera. Her gele, a signifier of her Nigerian heritage, is artfully wrapped around her head and stacks of beaded necklaces encircle her neck. Cast in chiaroscuro, the swath of saffron fabric over her shoulder catches the light. She’s vivid and regal, with an air of quiet mystery.
She’s a bride, and like the other women in Lakin Ogunbanwo’s series, “e wá wo mi” (2019), she’s resplendent in color. They look out behind veils of crimson, peach, and robin-egg blue, standing in front of draped fabrics in deep jewel tones. “Any Nigerian who sees this [work] will recognize this is the mood of Nigerian weddings—the decorations, drapes, fabric,” Ogunbanwo, who is from Lagos, said. Through this series, which means “come look at me,” the photographer reflects on the nuance of identity—that of the brides and his home country. The exhibit was on view at WHATIFTHEWORLD in Cape Town through June 8th.
Weddings in Nigeria have swelled into a thriving industry, with massive guest lists and color-coordinated wedding parties. A wedding is “very loud, very grand, and it’s a huge celebration,” where families and communities come together, Ogunbanwo said. Often there are two ceremonies, one with more traditional attire and ceremonies, and another more akin to Western nuptials.