Taiye Idahor’s multimedia practice combines drawn and collaged photographic elements to reflect on the historical and contemporary status of women in Nigeria, and, more broadly, on the shifting position of women within an increasingly globalized society. In her Ivie series, Idahor references the coral beads traditionally used to create the headdresses, jewelry, and regalia worn by female royalty of the Benin Kingdom (1180–1897)—and more recently by brides. Ivie translates to both “beauty” and “beads” in the Bini (Ẹ̀dó) language, and Idahor plays upon this confluence. She photographs women adorned with plastic replicas of coral beads that are made in China and shipped to Nigeria for sale. The artist then digitally removes each woman’s body from the photographed image. Now doubly replicated (reproduced in plastic and also photographically), the pictures of beads are cut out and collaged onto painted paper, defining the contours of an absent female body. Idahor then adds similarly-photographed images of coiled and braided newspaper to evoke hair. Her representation of imitation coral beads highlights the fact that these adornments have become shorthand for women’s social power (or lack thereof) in Nigeria. Because replica beads are now mass-produced abroad and shipped globally, their presence reflects the conflict between heritage and contemporary culture.
Idahor (b. 1984, Lagos) lives and works in the city of her birth. In 2007 she graduated from Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, with a specialization in sculpture. Since then, Idahor’s work has been exhibited internationally; her first solo show, Hairvolution (2014), was held at the Whitespace Gallery in Lagos. Idahor’s work is part of the collection of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town, South Africa; the Davis Museum, Wellesley, Massachusetts; and the Brooklyn Museum, New York.