Akinbode Akinbiyi is, by way of photography and poetry, a chronicler of the quotidian. He is interested in “everydaylifeness” rather than everydayness; two states differentiated by Akinbiyi’s profound interest in being—human beings, among other beings, and the way that they craft, navigate, and relate to societies and spaces.
Walking the streets of Bamako, Berlin, Cairo, Dakar, Johannesburg, Kinshasa, Lagos, or other megacities at his distinctively and determinedly slow pace, always armed with his Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex camera, Akinbiyi studies social structures, uncovers the hidden, and makes visible the unseen. On the one hand, it is the temporal rhythm of urban and rural lives that is of interest to him and, on the other, the way the architecture and the flow of the city influences those lives.
Akinbiyi’s attention is captured by the rituals of everyday politics, spirituality, humanity beyond the polished surfaces of the constructed ego. He is, consciously or unconsciously, in search of disruptions to that everydaylifeness and the many interjections, interruptions, and twists in the quotidian. In his images almost everything becomes sacred and transcendental, even the most socially, politically, or historically banal moments.
Born in 1946 in Oxford, England, to Nigerian parents, Akinbiyi is a street photographer. That is to say, the streets of the world, which he walks to feel their pulses and to diagnose the malaise of conflicted places and their inhabitants, are his studio. He also seeks something long ago lost but extremely familiar, essential, innocent. He has described this search in the following terms: “Over the past years I have realised that I am looking for my childhood, that kind of innocence and childlikeness that I had growing up in London and Lagos, and which I feel is no longer there. Whenever I find such moments—fragments of this lost innocence—I take photographs. At the same time, I try to understand what’s happening today in the cities I document.”
Akinbode Akinbiyi is, as Paget Henry described Wilson Harris in Caliban’s Reason (2000), a poeticist. Which is to say that his interest in recovering the (postcolonial) self, the being, is an important precondition for institutional recovery.
—Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung