In Nigeria, women’s hairstyles can carry a number of different meanings and messages. These plaits and elaborate structures take anywhere between 30 minutes and five hours to create and can mark special occasions such as weddings and birthdays, denote a particular family or region or respond to political and artistic movements of the day. The acclaimed Nigerian photographer JD ’Okhai Ojeikere spent 40 years immortalising nearly 1,000 of these hairstyles, until his death in 2014. “Apart from being fascinated by their beauty and the artistic nature of each hairstyle, he documented them for posterity,” says his son, photographer Amaize Ojeikere. There is a danger, he adds, that these skills will be lost. “Particularly now the younger generation think it is ‘old-school’. That is one of the reasons the images were taken: to showcase the beauty of our people.”

Structures of Identity will be at the Foam photography museum in Amsterdam from 29 June to 29 August.

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