Nominated by Zelda Cheatle (International gallerist, curator, editor & educator)
Tayo Adekunle is a British Nigerian photographer based in London. Working a lot with self-portraiture, she uses her work to explore issues surrounding race, gender and sexuality as well as racial and colonial history. Her work is centred around reworkings of historical tropes relating to the black female body, taking from contexts that include art historical paintings and sculptures as well as 19th century colonial photography. She works to subvert established notions about black female sexuality and the standard of beauty ascribed to black females. By placing historical imagery in a contemporary context, the relationship between the treatment of the black female body in the past and its treatment in the present day is explored.
Reclamation of the Exposition (2020) explores the commodification, fetishization and sexualisation of the black female body, specifically through the human displays in ethnographic expositions in the 18th and 19th centuries. The series uses and is influenced by ethnographic photographs which were circulated as pornography. Black (and other racial minority) bodies were photographed either naked in front of a white background, stripped of their identity, or surrounded by random tropical plants to make the photographs seem authentic. Using self-portraiture and digital collage whilst drawing from Prince Roland Napoleon Bonaparte’s photographic collection ‘Boshimans et Hottentots’, the works combine the contemporary with historic ways of being seen. Referencing her Nigerian heritage, Adekunle explores the relationship between the past and present ways the black female body is treated.