Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Photography, and the 1980s


The Visual Arts of Africa and its Diasporas

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Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: 92 illustrations Published: February 2019

Author: W. Ian Bourland

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Art and Visual Culture > Photography, Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies

In Bloodflowers W. Ian Bourland examines the photography of Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955–1989), whose art is a touchstone for cultural debates surrounding questions of gender and queerness, race and diaspora, aesthetics and politics, and the enduring legacy of slavery and colonialism. Born in Nigeria, Fani-Kayode moved between artistic and cultural worlds in Washington, DC, New York, and London, where he produced the bulk of his provocative and often surrealist and homoerotic photographs of black men. Bourland situates Fani-Kayode's work in a time of global transition and traces how it exemplified and responded to profound social, cultural, and political change. In addition to his formal analyses of Fani-Kayode's portraiture, Bourland outlines the important influence that surrealism, neo-Romanticism, Yoruban religion, the AIDS crisis, experimental film, loft culture, and house and punk music had on Fani-Kayode's work. In so doing, Bourland offers new perspectives on a pivotal artist whose brief career continues to resonate with deep aesthetic and social meaning.


"Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals." — E. Baden, Choice

"Bourland brilliantly describes Fani-Kayode’s work in a period of global transition, and how it created and responded to profound social, cultural, and political change. In addition to his expert analysis of Fani-Kayode’s portraits, Bourland ties together the unique intersecting elements that made the art of this era incredibly original: surrealism, neo-Romanticism, Yoruban religion, the AIDS crisis, experimental film, loft culture, and house and punk music." — Desirée Guerrero, HIV Plus

“Bourland’s book is a welcome showcase and exploration of Fani-Kayode’s work, especially in these times of renewed homophobia and racism.” — Rachel Jagareski, Foreword

"Bloodflowers is a rich and detailed study of the photographer Rotimi Fani-Kayode. . . . Bourland’s bookprovides much that will be of interest to students of photography and visual culture. . . ." — Darren Newbury, Journal of British Studies

“The real strength of Bloodflowers resides in Bourland’s descriptive capabilities and the care he gives to a Black artist who has not been granted the scholarly attention he deserves. Known for stunningly beautiful, conceptually rich photographs of Black men, Fani-Kayode created images that are at once steeped in complex symbolism while also semiotically porous in their surrealism: a contradiction that Bourland unpacks with great critical sophistication.” — Derek Conrad Murray, Art Bulletin

“The brilliance of Bourland’s book is in the range of its learnedness. Its promise, though, lies in its wide applicability. The book should be read not simply for its bearing on Fani-Kayode. It should be engaged as a model for a deeply interdisclipinary and historically attuned art history and criticism.” — Roderick A. Ferguson, Nka

“Exhaustively researched and beautifully written, W. Ian Bourland's Bloodflowers is a breathtaking account of Rotimi Fani-Kayode's career that combines histories of Western, African, and Afro-diasporic art with a deep consideration of the worlds through which the artist moved. Bloodflowers rigorously elucidates the formal, social, and political force of Fani-Kayode's oeuvre; moreover, it offers a new history of photography and diaspora art that troubles standard accounts of late twentieth-century postmodernism, multiculturalism, and queer art.” — Steven Nelson, University of California, Los Angeles

“A timely contribution to a growing body of scholarship celebrating the late Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Bloodflowers is a deeply insightful and long-overdue study dedicated to a pioneering—and often overlooked—figure in 1980s diasporic image-making. In this fitting tribute, W. Ian Bourland takes us on a mesmerizing journey, offering new positions and context regarding Fani-Kayode’s transgressive photographic oeuvre—critical reading for anyone interested in contemporary art, photography, race, Africanist art history, visual culture, and queer politics. Chapeau!” — Renée Mussai, Senior Curator and Head of Curatorial, Archive & Research at Autograph ABP, London


Availability: In stock
Price: $27.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

W. Ian Bourland is Assistant Professor of Global Contemporary Art History at Georgetown University and editor of FAILE: Works on Wood.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction. Nothing to Lose  1
Exposure 1. Brixton  23
Exposure 2. Rage and Desire  58
Exposure 3. Magnolia Air  91
Exposure 4. The Queen Is Dead  146
Exposure 5. Mirror Worlds  171
Exposure 6. Night Moves  209
Epilogue. Homecoming  250
Notes  257
Bibliography  291
Index  305
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Finalist, 2020 Lambda Literary Award (Lammy) in the LGBTQ Nonfiction category

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0089-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0068-6
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